Sam Duckworth has come out with a cracker – not a completely satsifying cracker, but more of a high-class early Christmas dinner kind of cracker. Taking the promise of his early EP, moving through the fleshier sounds of his first two albums and the increasing political and world-music engagement to it’s logical conclusion, he’s given us a definitive statement of what it is to Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – nothing like a self titled album to make the BIG STATEMENT.
The politics here are both a lot more explicit and a lot more opaque – while being more obviously lefty-liberal, the actual targets are a lot less obvious than, say, ‘Whitewash is Brainwash’ or ‘Glass Houses’. The first track, ‘Hand Me Downs’ wafts in on a soft acoustic intro, builds up with some soft electronic gurgles to a restrained climax, and doesn’t explode – it’s all the more epic for not trying to be epic. On the other hand, the clattering, battering ram jungle influences that Shy FX brings to ‘Collapsing Cities’, the single, really does sound huge, and live (such as in the Leftfield political tent at this year’s Glastonbury), this really rouses the righteous.
Talking of rousing tunes, ‘Nightlife’, ‘Stitch by Stitch’ and ‘The Uprising’ are the other big, powerful tunes here – the first being a paean to having a good time, the last a call to arms to get rid of bigots and fascists (I think). In between, though, is the emotional centre-piece of the album, the one-two punch of ‘All Falls Down’ and ‘Where Will You Stand?’. The former uses one of the nastiest, dirtiest beats I’ve ever heard from Get Cape to underpin a statement of intent, to stand by his mates and his love, whereas the latter is a lighter sounding, but more political tune asking, as you would expect, where one stands on a whole host of knotty ethical problems.
Duckworth’s certainly got a hell of a wide circle of friends and collaborators – from Kate Nash and Billy Bragg on the last album, to the aforementioned Shy FX hook up, and the Baaba Maal feature on ‘All Of This Is Yours’. It’s a pity that this doesn’t deliver as well as it could, but the song does lift when the guitars and the passion mount up by the end. There are only really two low points – the bit of the cracker that doesn’t win the mini-screwdriver set – and they are ‘Stitch By Stitch’, which starts out as a promising bit of dubstep/acoustic mashup, but doesn’t really get off the ground, and ‘The Plot’, which, unfortunately, has either lost it, or never had it in the first place.
It all ends with ‘Morning Light’, a tune which does sound like coming out of a dark night of revelry and possible political action to a great, London dawn, stumbling along a street with your mates and celebrating life in its best and most raucous manner. It’s a pretty good distillation of the album, and his whole ouevre – lefty-yet-emotional-intricately-detailed-but-bumptiously-English-indie-pop. Win.