Occasionally writing reviews causes the kind of proverbial hair pulling only experienced when staring at 'the dreaded blank page' because defining an album's sound and articulating its attributes and pitfalls is just bloody difficult. 'Diary' by The D.O.T presented just such a challenge. The new album by one-time great white hope of UK hip hop, Mike Skinner of The Streets and Rob Hope formerly of The Music is the follow up to their 2012 debut 'And That'. While the duo have received a decent reception by die hard Skinner fans and critics alike, their music hasn't been welcomed with the explosive fan-fair of Skinner's breakthrough 'Original Pirate Material'
This time, we find Mike with his producer hat firmly on as Rob Harvey leads much of the vocals on the album. The occasions where Skinner does try his hand at the 'singing thing' as opposed to rhyming, the results are interesting to put it politely. What Am I supposed To Do' has a tune in it somewhere but poor old Mike lost it somewhere along the way. Unique and unusual vocals work for living legends like Dylan or the hidden genius that is singer/songwriter Pierce Turner as their rough edges add warmth and humanity to well crafted story telling. But it just does not work here with average vocals, singing lyrics which at their worst honestly sound like they've been written on the back of a beer mat during a session. For example, "I stand there just staring at the ground, it's just laziness really" performed by Skinner in his half singing/ half-speaking style does seem just like laziness really. Likewise, his vocal on 'Under A Ladder' makes for painful listening, reminding us why his day job is as a rapper. It's a pity his natural affinity for narrative lyrics and melodic storylines are largely absent on 'Diary'
So here's the hair pulling part - for all the dissecting and bitching, there's no denying that 'Diary' has some really enjoyable moments too. 'Makers Mark' and 'Left Alone' both stand out, the former for its disco-tinged, production and funky hook and the latter for its 80's retro synths and robotic sci-fi squeaks. Harvey's voice lends the album's closest thing to a great vocal on 'Most Of My Time'. On a song inspired by the past both lyrically and in terms of production, the rich brass and deep key changes breathe soul into a fairly patchy album overall.
Review by Karen Lawler | Two Stars