A Moving Picture
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Essex MC Devlin's second album A Moving Picture features tracks with Wretch 32, Katy B and Etta Bond. It also contains the Top Ten single single "Watchtower", the Jimi Hendrix cover featuring Ed Sheeran.
Grime’s enjoyed a golden age of chart success lately, but long-time fans of the genre have been left counting the cost.
Back in 2009, Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder sparked an industry goldrush when they discovered that sledgehammer-subtle electro house and big RnB vocals was the way to make a fast buck. The likes of Chipmunk and Professor Green soon followed suit.
Dagenham boy James Devlin signed with Island as part of this wave of would-be crossover acts, having cut his teeth on the underground with the OT and Movement crews.
His label debut, Bud, Sweat & Beers, was more interesting than most, showcasing an angst-ridden talent whose eclectic style had more in common with The Streets (another urban-suburbanite), and whose socially conscious flows put him on the same page as Plan B.
If the record lacked a compelling enough vision to make it a classic, then it was certainly a promising start. Alas, A Moving Picture proves a more nakedly ambitious – in the humdrum sense of the word – follow-up, which struggles to strike the right balance between street cred and pop appeal.
Sun Goes Down sets the tone from the off; the buzzing rock guitars, will-to-overcome lyrics and ‘emotional’ chorus refrain recalling Tinchy and Pixie Lott’s Bright Lights. Katy B lends the endeavour some of her trademark class, but it’s a box-ticker at best.
Ed Sheeran collaboration (All Along the) Watchtower is pretty dreadful; a flimsy cross-branding exercise based on the Bob Dylan song of the same name, as covered by Jimi Hendrix. And single Rewind, with a chorus from Diane Birch, sounds like Eminem’s sappier material. It’ll probably be massive.
Devlin sparks on darker material like the So Solid-ish Really Cold and Off With Their Heads, a Wretch 32 collaboration that sounds like a string-laden Ni**as In Paris and makes for a thrillingly tense four minutes. Ghost Ship is excellent, too.
Elsewhere, though, introspection grates, and occasional detours into sentimentality don’t help – Mother’s Son sounds like Tupac at his mawkish worst. A Moving Picture might well make a star of Devlin, but it doesn’t always best serve his talents.
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Top customer reviews
SUN GOES DOWN FT. KATY B: The album opens with a strong musically layered anthem, making use of the eerie, yet sophisticated hook from Katy B to the best possible advantage, and the addition of some lyriclly mastered verses to the mix cement this as the album's finest opener. (5/5) REALLY COLD: Produced by Rizzle Kicks' chief producer Ant Whiting, this simple, yet effective number screams a return to Devlin's roots, without trying to bury him beneath a layer of unsatisfying production. It's simple, but does the job required of it. (5/5) ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER FT. ED SHEERAN: If you thought the radio version was awesome, then the album version cranks it up just a notch. The full length 4:42 version really lends highly upon the fantastic bass line and sensitivity of Sheeran's voice, linking up the fantastic hook with a powerful instrumental arrangement. (5/5) OFF WITH THEIR HEADS FT. WRETCH 32: Despite not making use of a hook, this clustered arrangement of in and out verses from Devlin and Wretch 32 is one of the album's highlights for me. It's not really friendly for radio play, due it's unstructured nature, but the instrumental heavy arrangement behind two of Britain's finest rappers is nothing to cry about. (5/5) GHOST SHIP: Devlin decides to make a welcome return to his roots on a track which sounds like a painful homage to 'Bud, Sweat and Beers'. Drawing on his lyrical ability to flow it through, the track is able to fall into both modern and classic categories, and for that, should be acclaimed. (5/5) LETTER TO MY BOYS: Apart from 'Rewind', this is perhaps the second most mainstream piece on the record, but that shouldn't detract from the fact that like every other track on the album, Devlin has worked extremely hard and put in alot of effort to ensure it's not just a filler, and has the ability to work as a possible single in the near future. (5/5)
A MOTHER'S SON: Thinking back to the sheer brilliance of 'Let it Go', 'A Mother's Son' is a fitting sequel to the Labrinth-produced masterpiece from 'Bud, Sweat and Beers'. It continues the lyrical genius of it's predecessor, but manages to take the production one step further. (5/5) REWIND FT. DIANE BIRCH: 'Rewind' sticks out like a sore thumb on the album, as it's the most mainstream style track Devlin has ever written and released. However, despite that, the track is so musically pleasing in it's own right that it deserves a place amongst the highest of rap masterpieces, and proves that Devlin can take on any musical challenge and win. (5/5) LOVE CARDS FT. ETTA BOND: It took me a while to get to grips with 'Love Cards', simply because it has a very estranged direction, and doesn't really fall into any other category on the album. But despite that, it still flows very well, and keeps you listening in anticipation to see what Devlin will reveal next. (4/5) A GIFT & A CURSE FT. CHASING GRACE: Devlin enlists the help of some rising superstars for his next effort, and while he's managed to flush the mainstream influence out of his system, something resembling 'chart hit' springs to mind. It's dark, gloomy, yet somehow powerfully moving. (5/5) THE CAST: You know those pieces of music that you hear at the start of films, and think, 'what is that? that's brilliant!', well this is what this is destined to be. The use of eerie sound effects, combined with a layered and darkened vocal makes for the ideal opener for the next horror slasher to grace our screens. (5/5) THE GARDEN: Devlin closes the album with what he does best - freestyling. Pick a classic beat, add some bars overtop, mix it a little bit at the end, and there you have the perfect swansong for another classic British album. Devlin keeps it flowing from the start to the end, and doesn't dissapoint. (5/5)
So there you have it. 'A Moving Picture' is a fine example of what a decent modern British album should be. No doubt, 'A Moving Picture' will go down in history as one of Devlin's finest works.
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