People say that a bad craftsman blames his tools; if that's the case, then Tom Findlay and Andy Cato - known to the general public as dance-architects extraordinaires Groove Armada - would have more than enough cohorts to condemn if their new album was a complete disaster. Thankfully, the Cambridge duo's fifth studio album, Soundboy Rock, is far from calamitous - which means that the multitude of Groovy guest stars can relax for now. One of the biggest, if not the most underestimated British dance outfits to emerge over the past decade, Groove Armada hit paydirt in 1999 with the re-release of celebrated chillout compilation favourite At The River. Multiple collaborations, Superstar DJ remixes and more TV ad hits that you could shake a short, bald, nautically-named New Yorker at followed. After more than ten years in the business, you'd wonder if perhaps Cato and Findlay must be running out of ideas, or have exhausted all possibilities; but Soundboy Rock's diverse and eclectic sound attest that that is certainly not the case. Disco queen Candi Staton, folky crooner Jeb Loy Nichols, former Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen, Mark Ronson-signed rapper Rhymefest and one-time Sugababe Mutya Buena all line-up for their star turn, as well as indie hotshots Richard Archer (Hard-Fi) and Alan Donohoe (The Rakes). With so much differentiation across genres here, Soundboy Rock is in danger of becoming a muddled, disoriented mass of styles with no direction - but, although slightly overlong, at an hour running time, it's a mostly cohesive and polished collection. Stomping Ibiza-esque single Get Down is a beefy, spiky, Basement Jaxx-do-reggae affair; What's Your Version?'s soulful tweak sees JL Nichols's thick, husky voice mollify the underlying blisters of robotic effects; Lightsonic is a shifting, Dizzee Rascal-style reggae grimefest, while the cinematic, multi-layered From the Rooftops twists the album into yet another different direction. There's even an unexpected dollop of out-and-out summertime reggae smack bang in the middle. They may be more Soundmen Rockers than boys these days, but Findlay and Cato continue to demonstrate that when it comes to Groove, their Armada is certainly in no danger of sinking without a trace.
Review by Lauren Murphy | 09:00 | Wednesday 16th May 2007 | Album Review