Earthquake is a Tune, isn’t it? Capital T very much intended. I mean, it’s a really really amazing song, so I was actually really looking forward to Labrinth’s (that’s actually how you spell it, I’m not just dropping typos again) debut effort. And since this is about a year and a half since his first single (Let the Sun Shine), was it worth the ridiculously long wait?
Short answer: I don’t know. There’s a lot to like on here, but there’s not much to really love. As I said, “Earthquake” is SUCH a tune, but there is absolutely nothing that even comes close to it’s amazingness. “Let the Sun Shine” is nice enough, I mean it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel but it still a very listenable song, unlike recent single “Last Time“, which frankly sounds like a knock-off Chris Brown album track from three years ago. Not good.
The big problem for the album is that apart from the blessed Earthquake, there’s nothing here that really jumps out and grabs you. You can tell that, bless him, Labrinth has really tried to create something completely unique, but actually everything on here just sounds a little bit generic. There’s nothing horrendous on it, it’s just everything sounds like you’ve heard it a million times before, and not in a good way.
Two unusual samples crop up. “Express Yourself” uses, unsurprisingly, Express Yourself (this one) whilst “Sundown” uses “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell. I’m not sure what to think about either song. The former is just MENTAL, one minute a fun, feel good version of the original and then it whips out a breakdown that makes “Starships” by Nicki Minaj sound subtle and restrained. Of course making a song that sounds good but is completely fucking insane is the way to please me, so I think I quite like it. The latter, however, doesn’t seem to even have a tune. It’s a bit of a mess, and the sample just stands out like a sore thumb.
The other song I really liked was his duet with Emeli Sandé (whose album I was very impressed by, btw) “Beneath Your Beautiful”. Again, that’s not a typo, “beautiful” is used as a noun. It’s a really beautiful, soulful duet filled with pianos, violins and choirs and both of their voices sound amazing. Unfortunately, come verse two there’s a drum beat that bursts in that’s so loud you almost can’t even hear poor old Emeli. Very much a case of sometimes less is more. Still doesn’t ruin a really sweet song.
The generic-ness hits once again towards the end of the album, with “Sweet Riot” being fun and listenable, but frankly I couldn’t tell you the tune after about ten listens, whilst “Vultures” is another ballad, that sadly, whilst being very nice and all, pales next to the far-superior “Beneath Your Beautiful”.
The whole thing wraps with an extended all-stars version of “Earthquake” that manages to squeeze in guest raps from Kano, Wretch 32, Busta Rhymes along side Labrinth and original guest Tinie Tempah. But frankly all it does is remind you that even if this is an accomplished and confident debut, it could have been so much more.
BEST 3 SONGS: “Earthquake”, “Beneath Your Beautiful”, “Let The Sun Shine”