“Always gonna live like it’s my last day,” vows Elliot “Example” Gleave repeatedly on Come Taste the Rainbow, the opening track of his fourth album.
And if this set is representative of said lifestyle, we must conclude that our hero will spend most of his final hours regretfully reflecting on his excessive drink and drug habits and settling scores against ex-partners. All to a banging stadium-rave-rock-grime-house-synth-techno-metal-pop sing-along soundtrack. What a way to go.
You’d imagine Gleave would be a little more upbeat considering last year’s Playing in the Shadows peaked at No.1 and spawned back-to-back chart-topping singles. But Perfect Replacement and Close Enemies are bitter ripostes to exes, while One Way Mirror makes the startling accusation, “You were frosty to me like I was Nixon”.
Yet ultimately, to misquote Shakespeare in Example’s trademark not-quite-poetic manner, you might think the lad doth protest too much. Such dark lyrical tropes have served him well in the past, and even the blokey-but-sensitive shtick of his lovably clunky, WTF rhymes are part of a well-honed musical formula.
But credit where it’s due – he provides something for everyone. Different elements to pull out for umpteen different remixes? Tick. Bits the girls can sing and the blokes can shout along to? Tick. Brooding rap section to keep it “real”? Tick.
A few beefy rock riffs? Skream and Benga-assisted grimey techno squawks? Icy synth stabs and trancey beats for the ravers? Tick, tick, tick, and presumably, boom as the crowd goes wild. All that’s missing, strangely but mercifully, is a bit of grotesque Auto-Tune. With it, he’d fill up his 2012 pop bingo card with ease.
Yet underneath it all, songs like Say Nothing, Queen of Your Dreams and the title track are curiously reminiscent not of his hip hop roots or vintage dance music, but soaring 80s soft rock, albeit spattered with a gob full of glottal stops. As such, how can it fail?
“I need to make a fresh start,” he frets on Snakeskin. Nonsense. You’re doing just fine, and you know it.