The LaFontaines – Common Problem
- Niki Boyle
- 16 October 2017
Rap-rock from Motherwell
In naming their second album Common Problem, Motherwell rap-rockers The LaFontaines declare they have something to say about our shared societal ills. There are scraps of this ambition littered through the album: 'They gave us Brexit and The Apprentice' sneers rapper Kerr Okan in the opening bars of 'Explosion', while the video for single 'Release the Hounds' has dancers in Donald Trump masks cavorting while the band post wads of cash through housing estate letterboxes. These token mentions aside though, the targets on Common Problem are pretty vague: a general angst about the world we live in, but with no specific focus. Take the lyrics of recent single 'Asleep': 'Trip just to fall with finesse / Or drop like bombs from the West / Wasted faithless man has awoken / Baptised in the ocean – soaking'. It scans well enough, but what does all that actually mean? (It doesn't help that Okan's vocals are often poorly served by the guitar-heavy production.)
Musically, things are much more satisfying. The LaFontaines, having grown-up in the era of rap-rock and nu-metal, are clearly indebted to both Linkin Park (with their rapped verses and sung choruses) and Rage Against the Machine. There's even an explicit nod to RATM's spiritual successors – not the (frankly embarrassing) Prophets of Rage, but hip-hop duo Run the Jewels – on 'Goldmine': 'they tell me to run for the jewels, whatever it costs, just cut me a piece of the cheque'. Elsewhere, 'Armour' and 'Total Control' are built on Royal Blood-like riffs, 'Asleep' has a satisfying Die Antwoord synth throb and 'Atlas' is possessed of an indie-tropical bounce that'll function well as part of The LaFontaines' much-revered live performances. It's just a shame that Common Problem's melodic inventiveness is undermined by a lack of lyrical incisiveness.
Out Fri 27 Oct.