mon 22/04/2019

CD: Plan B - Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Plan B - Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose

CD: Plan B - Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose

Explosively enjoyable return by Brit hip hop soul star after a half decade away

Back to the planet

The opening couplet on Plan B’s new album runs thus: “What the hell have I got to be grateful for?/Can’t be the money as I wasn’t trying to make no more.” One appealing aspect of singer-actor-MC Ben Drew is that he’s spiky, emanating a certain rage. It’s good to see that, after six years away, it’s still there. However, Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose, is no Ill Manors, Drew’s 2012 film/album polemic about underclass Britain; instead, steeped in old soul and imaginative production, this is a rip-roaring 21st century pop album, and a very good one.

Where Plan B’s last album in this vein, The Defamation of Strickland Banks, was a concept piece, with a discernible narrative, Heaven… is simply a tight collection of songs. Delivered with aplomb, Drew’s vocals are rich and impressive, somewhere between Otis Redding and Seal, often laid over Memphis-style rhythm & blues boosted on hip hop beats and surrounded by electronic trimmings. The album, written with various contemporary songwriters such as Foy Vance and Kid Harpoon, initially sticks to this formula, which, after all, made him a star, but then he becomes playful, giving us a couple of housey numbers, the steel-band-flavoured “Wait So Long” and Disclosure-ish “Pushin’”. From there he spreads his wings.

Thematically, the lyrics mostly deal with affairs of the heart and his personal belief (eg “Heartbeat” - “I did it just to prove ‘em wrong/Because they said I’d never make anything of myself”) but he still has time for bursts of anti-authoritarian vim, as on the energized, dubsteppy “Guess Again”. Wherever he heads, musically, he appears unstoppable. The astounding “Flesh & Bone” could come from Beyoncé’s superb Lemonade; the title track has a crackling funk; the rave-gospel of “Mercy” bursts with life and ideas. And there’s much more to revel in besides.

Plan B has returned with all flags flying. Whether the general public, whose memory is notoriously short, are ready to welcome him as he deserves, remains to be seen, but his fourth album is a gem, easy to listen to yet full of vibrancy and variety.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Stranger" by Plan B

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