Debut album on Ninja Tune by Mr. Scruff (aka Andy Carthy), released 1999. Previous work includes "Mr. Scruff" on Pleasure, subsequent album was Trouser Jazz, also on Ninja Tune. Mr. Scruff's second full length release sees an eclectic fusion of breakbeat, hip hop, big beat, trip hop and jazz, without ever taking itself too seriously. The tunes are excellent, and it will put a big, demented grin on your face. What more could you ask ?

Track Listing :

  1. Is He Ready ...
  2. Spandex Man
  3. Get A Move On
  4. Midnight Feast
  5. Honeydew
  6. Cheeky
  7. So Long
  8. Chipmunk
  9. Do You Hear ?
  10. Shanty Town
  11. Jus Jus
  12. Blackpool Roll
  13. Travelogue
  14. Fish


"Are you ready, Mr. Scruff ?"

The album begins with a spoken word intro, Is He Ready ... which sounds as though it's been pulled from a radio session (the clue is the note on the back, which states "featuring Mary Anne Hobbs, 'The Breeze Block' Radio 1". The words in full are "Comin' up shortly, perhaps ? I dunno ... Is he ? Are you ready, Mr. Scruff ? Is he ready, we wonder to ourselves ... perhaps he's ready ?". This then goes straight into Spandex Man, a fantastic, funky opener combining a sort of big beat rhythm with (possibly sampled) guitar riffs. This is a bouncy, slightly loopy head-nodder, which has some cool analog squidges and bleeps thrown in for good measure. Get A Move On sets a more frantic, jazzy tone for the next song, and is a regular in his live sets. Includes a sample, clearly from an old jazz record that includes the advice "You'd better keep movin' boy ... or you'll be left behind". If anyone can tell me where the sample from this comes from, I'd love to know. It soon moves into a thumping, almost house-ey type affair, which when played live has everyone jumping like they were on springs - listen to it and you'll immediately know why. Cool horn breaks and a solid bassline finish it off nicely.

"'Open your heart' said the woman, unpick the seams ..."

Midnight Feast shifts the mood down a gear, with chilled guitar and piano lines almost reminiscent of Massive Attack, circa Protection. Wistful and relaxed, this provides the perfect antidote to the preceeding madness. Sometimes these sorts of tracks can become a bit dour and tiring as they wear on ... not so here, as it is about the right length and doesn't outstay it's welcome. Which is good, because Honeydew continues the mood but makes use of a slightly more urgent drum track, with some interesting programming going on. Some lovely vocals (credited to 'fi') are complemented by Wah-wah breaks and gliding strings. The lyrics are in part a bit cheesy, but you'd have to be pretty picky to complain !

Back to mixed up funkiness for Cheeky, with a steady, bouncy bassline and some jumpy piano chords over the top. Some synth riffs that sound as though they could be sampled backwards add some interest. This is a good tune in it's own right, but it drags on a bit towards the end, and since the overall standard of the album is so high, this sounds a tiny bit of a filler next to the other tracks. No matter, as So Long is the next one up, and this is definately a high point for me. Much has been made of so-called chill-out music over recent years, but this is about as good as it gets. Drooping brass and bass, ethereal xylophones and some really nice oscillator effects make this one of the better tracks on the album. Lovely. The mood contrinues with the oddly named Chipmunk, with a slightly more upbeat spin on the theme. I'm not sure if he's using samples or sequencing a synth here, but whatever it is it sounds great. It quickly establishes a groove, and refuses to let go. I hate to use the phrase 'smoking music', but if that helps the description, so be it. Some nice touches on the hi-hats and snare make this a winner.

There's a whale, there's a whale ...

Do you hear ? initially seems to be a filler, with a squidgy bassline and some meandering vocal lines. Some more interesting drum programming and filtered bass helps to hold the listener's attention, but by the time it ends, a change of mood is much needed. Fortunately, help is at hand with Shanty Town. This is where it gets wonderfully strange - I don't where he got the samples for this, but it sounds like some sort of children's story. It tells a sort of disjointed tale where someone goes aboard a fishing ship in search of a whale, gets washed overboard and then rescued. The vocal lines include all sorts of odd cut up samples such as "there's a whale, there's a whale, there's a whale fish and the whale was in full view", over the top of a simple bass and drums arrangement. To try and describe it fully is impossible, but it injects some needed humour into the proceedings. Ends with the immortal line "You great fish !".

Jus Jus features the brilliant Roots Manuva, courtesy also of Ninja Tune. This combines Scruff's bouncy hip-hop arrangements with Roots Manuva's own distinctive vocals. If you like this, consider getting hold of his album, Brand New Second Hand on Big Dada Recordings/Ninja Tune. Blackpool Roll moves into a skippy, upbeat arrangement that includes more horns and organ signatures. This is probably the most lighthearted tune on the album, and breaks up the latter half nicely and provides some variety.

On to the penultimate track, Travelogue - more hazy riffs and lazy beats to be had. Perfect lounging music, this has a dub-ish, throbbing bass and a break which sounds like it could be a backwards guitar. This is a nice relaxed track, perfect for gazing out of the window on a summers day. Aaaahhh !

And last, but definately not least, probably Scruff's most widely known tune, and one he uses to sometimes close his live set. That's right, Fish. Much in the same vein as Shanty Town, but with a more surreal edge. "Once again, I shall go and get the fish monger to prepare the fish" begins this track. You can't describe this track, you can only listen. Inchoherent samples, relaxed jazzy beats and swimmy ambience combine with utterly surreal lyrics such as "I expect you'd like to know about ... frogmen ?" / "Trout are freshwater fish, and have underwater weapons" . Towards the end, the "fish fish fish" motif is repeated, with some samples that sound like they came off an old music-hall record. I defy anyone not to smile whilst listening to this (or at least shake their head in confusion).

"Just listen to me young fellow ... what need is there for fish to sing, when I can roar and below ?"

If you know where any of his samples are from, or if you have anything to add, please /msg me. Cheers.

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