Black Grape – It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah – Review

Black Grape

It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah (Radioactive)
by Chris Adams

Whether or not the title is intended ironically is anyone’s guess. In the late ’80s/early ’90s, the Happy Mondays were legendary for their debauchery. Although the Mondays were instrumental in spurring the Ecstasy-fuelled “good vibes” of the “Madchester” scene, the group ended up splitting in ’92 due to the strain of touring, alcohol, and, most notably, singer Shaun Ryder’s growing dependence on smack.

After three years AWOL, the singer’s back, along with human drugstore Bez, and former Ruthless Rap Assassins Kermit and Jed. Naturally, the question at hand is: Is it as good as the Mondays or just a vain grasp at what could have been? Answer: Not only is it as good, it’s better – by a long shot. …Straight is a vicious blend of rap, funk, dance grooves, and vocal hooks that will free the ass of even the most pasty-faced wallflower. Better still, Ryder’s sense of humor is just as twisted as ever. On the album’s opener “Reverend Black Grape” Ryder commands: “Oh come all ye faithful/ye joyful and triumphant/gather ’round/while I blow my own trumpet.” Ryder sings this in a manner that deflates rap’s narcissism as much as it self-aggrandizes it. The driving groove of “Kelly’s Heroes” sports my favorite vocal exchange on the album: (Jeb) – “Jesus Was a Black Man!” Ryder – “No, Jesus was Batman!” (Both) – “Aww, fuck, that was Bruce Wayne.” Stylistically, this album’s all over the fucking place, and like the Beatles’ Revolver, it’s all the stronger because of it. It’s apparent that, not only do these guys check out a lot of music, but they understand it as well. But enough rock-critic theorism. In short, this is probably the grooviest, funkiest, foxiest, wittiest party album you’ll hear all year. Pick it up, get it down, and shake yer muthafuggin’ groove thang.