After deciding to take sandwiches for a day or two instead of buying them in order to cover the £3 cost of this download, I wondered why I don’t just put myself on a couple of PR agency books so that I can get review copies for free. Then I reminded myself: I have to spend a couple of hours (at least) with a record to hear it properly, and if it’s rubbish, that’s two hours wasted. If I get sent 10 crappy albums a week, that’s my entire free time wasted on bilge. Much better just to actively seek out the great music and appreciate it all the more. Yes, all the proper critics fell in love with The ArchAndroid, but The Chase Suite is the one that wowed me.
The Chase Suite is a seven-track EP that owes as much to Fritz Lang and Philip K Dick as it does to Funkadelic and James Brown. It’s orchestral rhythm-and-blues in the classic Motown sense, but at the same time contemporary, pulling threads from a diverse range of influences.
Violet Stars Happy Hunting! features The Skunks, whoever they may be. It sounds a lot like Hey Ya by Outkast, which given Monáe’s Big Boi connection is not surprising (she even sang on Idlewild).
Many Moons is the one that got the Grammy nomination, and it’s certainly a very strong song. I’m not so keen on the Vogue-esque rap bit towards the end, but the song’s got great hooks and a good sound and is extremely catchy.
Cybertronic Purgatory is silent for so long I think there’s a problem with either the track or my player, but it’s just very quiet – just a soft aria-style vocal and subtle acoustic guitar.
Sincerely, Jane is my favourite track, reminding me strongly of the first single by the Sugababes, Overload, which made heavy use of a similar brass line that I always thought was a Charlie Mingus sample. Monáe’s slightly husky vocals are wonderful over the lush strings and irresistible hip-hop beats.
Mr President is a very old-fashioned R&B ballad in the Midnight Hour vein. It doesn’t particularly move me, but her voice is pleasant and the guitars skillful.
Smile is a cover of the Charlie Chaplin song, sung with minimal backing and the trying-to-cram-as-many-notes-into-a-single-word habit beloved of all pop divas. It’s pretty.