The Blet Project – Now Live (3 stars)

The Blet Project – Now Live

Debut album from electro funk band

Certain phrases can really ruin your day. You know the sort of thing I'm talking about: 'Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?' or 'It's not you, it's me.' Personally, I'd put 'electro-funk concept album' into that category, and so I approached the Blet Project's debut album Now Live with a considerable degree of trepidation.

I needn't have. The brainchild of songwriter Stephen Dennis, the band make 90s-inspired electro pop with a critical twist. Given contemporary pop producers' addiction to pilfering the sounds of that decade, it's interesting to find an act trying to combine the format of the three-minute pop track with socially conscious songwriting.

Breakout single 'Eight Til Ten' is a jumpy take on wage slavery, 'The Anthem' locks on to virtue signalling and self-righteous social media politics, and 'Mr David Harris' contains a few wry digs at the music industry itself. The production echoes 90s anthems (especially pop-funk acts like Level 42) while lead vocalist Maisie Hutt's voice recalls the Beautiful South's Jacqui Abbot – though Dennis doesn't compare favourably to Paul Heaton in terms of songwriting chops due to heavy-handed instrumentation on tracks like 'A Love Of Sin', on which synth drops lead into indulgent guitar licks.

It's refreshing to find a record with political bite which doesn't seek to emulate protest music in the Billy Bragg tradition, but considering that the band also set out to invert the classic pop song mould, it wanders far from their brief too soon into the record.

If you can get past the innate terror associated with the electro-funk label, Now Live is an intriguing listen, even if it's not totally satisfying as a political critique.

Now Live is out on Fri 8 Nov.

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