Stanley Odd – A Thing Brand New
Scottish hip hop at its best from Dave Hook and co
(A Modern Way Recordings)
With the Mercury Music prize victory for Young Fathers still causing some reverberations in Londonista music circles, it’s eminently possible that this moment could be a turning point for Scottish hip hop. One act who might reap benefits from this surprise result is fellow Edinburghers Stanley Odd, a six-piece who concoct softer hues to their capital city comrades.
Yet, if the sound of a Scottish accent in rap mode still sends your body into a full-on cataclysmic cringe, maybe Stanley Odd (or, more accurately, Dave Hook, aka Solareye) might be a Forth Road Bridge too far. But for Hook, embracing your heritage is at the heart of the truths he and his band are pursuing. Which will never stop some from making direct comparisons to Stateside acts: the moving ‘Draw Yir Own Conclusions’ has the majestic slow reveal of, all-too ironically, Marshall Mathers’ ‘Stan’ while several of the album’s songs are elevated by soulful interjections from Veronika Electronika.
As live performances at the likes of Wickerman and Princes Street Gardens’ Commonwealth torch-greeting ceremony testify, in the jumping flesh is where Stanley Odd excel. There, Hook shows the Tigger-like joy of someone who has toiled long and hard to get the recognition he and his crew deserves (‘To Be This Good Takes Stages’ reflects that struggle). On A Thing Brand New, the brain is ticking away but there’s plenty time for the feet and head to take over through bouncy numbers such as ‘Knock Knock’ and ‘Get Back in the Basement’.
The odd lyrical standpoint proposes social justice while acknowledging Scotland’s dark side, such as its unholy part in Britain’s empire-building. ‘The Walking Dead’ insists that Thatcherism, unlike the totemic hate figure herself, is far from deceased and buried, and there’s even a swipe at Boris Johnson’s fiscal attitudes. But, as the melancholic pro-Yes final-track statement grinds to its ultimately fruitless halt, what kind of a Stanley are we left with? One that is far from flat, and should be receiving laurels for years to come.