How do you follow up a multiple award winning, phenomenally successful album packed with big ass tunes and block rockin beats? With some difficulty apparently.
Rudimental are back with their second album, ‘We the Generation’, two years on from the bombastic ‘Home’, and while all those elements that made it massive are still there, the maturity of the new songs will delight and disappoint in equal measure.
The album kicks off in trade mark fashion with big beats and big hooks, ‘I Will for Love’, with Will Heard (Sonnentanz) on vocals, and ‘Never Let you Go’, featuring Foy Vance, sounding very much like, well, Rudimental; which is all well and good, but there is a touch of deja-vu here. Although in themselves they are great tracks, they maybe don’t quite hit the same highs as say ‘Feel the Love’ or ‘Not Giving In’.
Rudimental’s positive vibe remains infectious though, and the tracks which work best are the more complex numbers such as the multi-layered ‘Love Ain’t Just a Word’ with Anne-Marie, whose retro vocal adds depth alongside Dizzy Rascal’s familiar tones, and the 90s vibe smooth grooves of ‘Rumour Mill’ (Will Heard/Anne-Marie) and ‘Common Emotion’, with long term collaborator MNEK.
‘Needn’t Speak’ also hits that laid back vibe, with Lianne La Havas turning it into a very cool tune; sometimes less is more.
The title track, featuring Mahalia, and ‘Go Far’ are both nice enough, also benefitting from quality vocal performances, but there are a few tracks lacking identity and not really going anywhere; ‘Foreign World’ and ‘Too Cool’ among the main offenders.
So now we come to the elephant(s) in the room. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Ed Sheeran’s phenomenal success, and on ‘Lay it All on Me’ Ed has sprinkled his gold dust and it will probably save the album commercially after the poor reception afforded to most of the singles. For them to remix Ed’s Bloodstream, however, and use it as an album track, seems a little weird and I’m not convinced the remix works. Similarly, ‘New Day’, featuring the late great Bobby Womack, doesn’t exactly hit the spot; it initially had me reaching for the volume button, but is overly clunky and bass dense, swallowing up the vocal and strangling the guitar lines. Even so, the beats do kinda save the overcrowded tune that would surely work better stripped down with a bit of space between horns, piano, vocal and guitar.
Overall ‘We the Generation’ is a good solid album, but it lacks the bombastic swagger and hence the mass appeal of the debut, as shown by the unenthusiastic response to the preceding singles. Having said that, it is some of the more understated moments that make the album worthwhile and hint at a future overflowing with deep cuts.