Since their 2007 breakout hit ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’, London hip-hop/spoken word duo Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip have had their career take a number of speed-bumps. While debut album Angles worked to solidify their standing as a breakout force from the underground hip-hop scene to be reckoned with, second album syndrome hit them with the underwhelming Logic of Chance. After taking time out to regroup and retrain with individual solo albums they’re back for the third act, Repent, Replenish, Repeat. With considerable attention paid to honing their individual strengths, does the album itself prove to be as good as the sum of its two halves?
In a way, yes. They have continued to pursue their darker route as heard on their last collaborative album, though there is now more dexterity to their act – particularly to Dan Le Sac’s more nuanced production style and with Scroobius Pip bringing in ra-rock type choruses (á la Zack de la Rocha) from his solo effort.
Opening track ‘Stunner’ sees Pip as the jilted lover, immediately calling out “I want you to look back on this and smile / But I kinda want that smile to be through tears”. What follows is by far one of their most industrial-sounding songs to date as Pip aggressively blasts apart any notion of idealised romances as he shouts, “We fall in love with that which we project on each other / Then settle for reality or just reject one another”.
Meditations on brief relationships crop up throughout the album. Further on, ‘Terminal’ relives a night of excess with an anonymous woman who, within the four-minute track, finds her long-wanted spiritual release in tragedy. It’s a bit of a risk to have such a heavy song (more of a spoken word piece with Le Sac supplying the ambience) so early on in the album. Fans have learned to expect this, though for the newcomer this sudden dark turn may feel like stepping into the emotional deep end a bit too soon.
Nonetheless Pip maintains his typical lyrical adroitness throughout; each one of these songs rewards multiple listens to fully pick up on the deceptively complex styles at play; in ‘Porter’ he provides brilliantly intricate character sketches against Le Sac’s well-judged, stripped-down synth violins. The humour of their earlier work is also maintained. ‘Gold Teeth’ is probably their most accessible song on the album and thankfully plays on the right side of preachy protest against those “dressed by Jimmy Savile Row’s best designers”. Pointing out fallacies has been his lyrical hobby for a while now – in ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ he follows on from his solo album’s ‘Death of the Journalist’ by blaming mass internet media for lowering political angst to “hear the evil, see the evil, but talk a lot of bullshit / Complain about the way it is, but still support it”. It also features a great turn form Itch of the King Blues, with lines such as ”A brick though the window is worth two in the hand”.
After their respective sabbaticals this lean, focused album helps to re-establish the act for those who felt the previous underperformed. Those who find their darker turns may not warm to the album as well as the rest of us, and the risky inclusion of the ‘Terminal’ track so early on never quite pays off. Despite this, it’s good to see them bring their individual efforts together to fortify what is nevertheless a competent return to form.