In their heyday, when they were the darlings of international hip-hop and really the first significant British rap artists, the Stereo MC's found themselves in rarefied company, sharing stages with everyone from U2 and Living Colour to Jane's Addiction and De La Soul. But it's not 1993 anymore, and over the years the Stereo MC's have gradually shrugged off the strictures of hip-hop orthodoxy and become a genuine pop group. On Emperor's Nightingale their sound is still informed by their hip-hop past, but much more so by their years of remixing and exploring other beat-based genres. On this album, vocalist Rob Birch sings, almost exclusively. (Only on "Bring It On [Path to the Mind and the Soul and the Spirit]" does his singing start to resemble rapping in any real way.) The duo's new style is not exactly forward-looking -- squidgy synths and glistening electronic percussion predominate -- but it's certainly accomplished and self-assured, and at its best the results are truly impressive. "Boy" is a gorgeous slab of old-school electro-pop, with a chorus the Pet Shop Boys could be proud of, while "Manner" and the especially funky "Far Out Feeling" start creating a more individual sound that could develop into something new and significant. Best of all, though, is "Desert Song," a soca-flavored dub-funk workout that closes the album on a high note. If they keep moving ahead in this vein, things could start getting very interesting again. ~ Rick Anderson, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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