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Signs Of A Struggle
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  • Recording information: 2005.
  • The debut album by Mattafix is a pleasantly tantalizing experience of guessing the sound and never being quite there -- because Mattafix has taken the old elements and made them into something new, or at least untried before. You can guess a trip-hop vibe -- more like Morcheeba than Portishead, -- a very tuned-down pub room groove of Morphine, a lot of hip-hop elements. "Passer-By" is laid-back blues, "555" dub in its prime, and the closer "Cool Down the Place" is reggae, pure and simple. The general sound is often somewhat similar to Everlast's "Black Jesus" and even Black Eyed Peas' "Where's the Love?" -- this band's one mellow hit before they went out to really shake that booty. Hell, "The Means" even has the reverb guitar the Cure employed. But none of these comparisons quite work. What's more, for all its stylistic variety, Signs of a Struggle is deliciously consistent -- that is to say, the songs are by no means clones of each other, but this doesn't sound like a sampler CD, either. This should be partly ascribed to drums, written and produced in much the same way throughout the album, but with the rhythm patterns thought out well enough that a certain uniformity wouldn't matter much. The overall sound is sparse, with crooning (Justin Timberlake would sell his kidney for this voice) or some rapping laid right over the beats that carry the songs. But they also throw in piano or keys, more often backed by strings than guitars, and these laconic arrangements help turn Signs of a Struggle into a pop album, and a good one at that. Mattafix don't have any standout hits, but on the plus side, there's virtually no filler material -- "To & Fro" and "Big City Life" could be replaced in radio rotation by almost any other song off the album, and thank God for that, the world has enough one-hit wonders as it is. And what it all comes down to -- the real face of the album -- is something that can only be called London reggae. That sounds sort of like an oxymoron, but it really works; in fact, the music of Mattafix is the only type of reggae a city like London can emotionally afford: melancholic, urban, but still relaxed. Quite possibly, this may be the album we really need after a hard day's night. ~ Alexey Eremenko
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