By Hallelujah Johnson
Hallelujah Johnson have plenty of talent, some crafty-sounding beats and some cunning turntable noises. But spreading it across eight tracks makes it a bit thin for a first acquaintance. I guess the kids in Essex are a bit more interested in this kind of thing. For myself I have more time for the extremes of urban music. This sounds mainstream, and the straight performance video suggests the band would rather be loved than dangerously or single-mindedly creative. Catching it first time through without the soundtrack, the earnest on-stage jigging looked contrived, as if the producer had insisted on some "movement for the camera". The band should have told him what their sullen sleeve photos seem to be saying.
Sure, there is drama, excitement, some fine singing and some pretty sharp rapping, with cool sounding hints of Middle Eastern/North African/Asian tonalities at key moments. There's quite a lot of standard rock song business too. The whole package is eclectic and pretty attractive, and I can see why their press blurb talks about the music's adoption as soundtrack for videos and adverts.
But in my ignorance, I'm sure than "quite nice" has got to be a pretty harsh criticism. Their pictures have them moody and pouting. And they wear those caps with long curved peaks that say "Don't even think about saying anything to me. I'm hard."
Low point is a turgid and guitary "Daddy Long Legs". High point is jazzy Streets-ish "50 foot speaker" (featuring E-Dog and Blanco). Top moment in that tune is the line "Ridin' round sellin' coke from a BMX, you're on the A list, your house under surveillance". It's funny, and it sounds genuinely involved and worried. I fear it will be swallowed alive by bigger, badder and more deceitful material. There is a "hidden track" too, but I've no idea why. It does have some sweet guitar chords and more good singing though. All the signs are that this band needs some sharp management.