Black Grape

Pop Voodoo

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Shaun Ryder originally planned to spend the mid-2010s recording a new album with a reunited Happy Mondays but there were so many cooks in that kitchen he decided it'd be easier to finish off a new Black Grape record. Working with his sidekick Kermit and producer Youth, Ryder reverts to his old loves: '70s soul and disco, big beats and psychedelics, word games and singsong melodies. Ryder never abandoned these signatures but Pop Voodoo puts them in sharp relief, partially because Youth keeps the emphasis on the vibe, not the words. All through Pop Voodoo, Ryder drops lines that are alternately provocative and embarrassing, but it takes considerable effort to pick out "My girl, she loves her money/Not as much as she loves her mummy" -- and that line serves as a chorus on "Sugar Money!" By burying Ryder in the mix, using his voice as just another aural element, Youth performs a service to Pop Voodoo as a whole, because it keeps the focus firmly on brightly dense rhythms designed for late nights at the club. Not that Pop Voodoo would be heard in many dance clubs in 2017. Black Grape never make any attempt to navigate the neon-blasted aftermath of EDM, choosing to assert their middle age by re-appropriating their favorite sleazy sounds from the past. That's why Pop Voodoo, unlike the band's stilted 1997 farewell Stupid, Stupid, Stupid or the 2007 Happy Mondays album Uncle Dysfunktional, actually works. It's nothing more than a couple of old friends sitting around and cracking jokes to each other. If you happen to share their sensibility, it's a fun way to spend 50 minutes.

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