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Friday, Oct. 13, 2006


Scritti Politti "White Bread Black Beer"

With his punk roots, 1980s pop hits and hip-hop beatmaking, you could never accuse Scritti Politti's Green Gartside of being musically limited. Yet with just five Scritti Politti albums over 25 years, this 51-year-old Welsh recluse is hardly pop's most prolific son either. On "White Bread Black Beer," though, Gartside's sound takes a fresh twist to deliver something truly scrumptious.

This strange album conjures a world informed by John Lennon, Brian Wilson and Elliott Smith, but populated by Scritti Politti alone. A canvas of subtle electronic beats sits beneath a rich tapestry of warm melodies and vocal harmonies. It's a hangover record, mending a broken head or heart with muted acoustica, quaint wordplay and ethereal multitracked vocals.

It's also a grower. Persistent listening is soon rewarded by dreamy songs that find their way into your head and stay there, such as the sublime "Road To No Regret" or bittersweet "Snow In Sun." Then again, quirkier moments such as "E Eleventh Nuts" offer unpredictable stylistic changes that give the album depth, as soul and disco breaks collide with Beatlesy pop. And Japanese bonus track "Hands Up," featuring maverick American freestyle rapper Skillz, serves to remind us of Gartside's pioneering hip-hop work. "White Bread Black Beer" is an unexpected album, but one to cherish.

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