Purveyors of people’s pleasure, The Nextmen and Gentleman’s Dub Club have succeeded in producing an album that will linger on sound systems for many moons to come.
Any album that features The Nextmen, Gentleman’s Dub Club, Hollie Cook, Kiko Bun, Eva Lazarus and Joe Dukie (Fat Freddy’s Drop) is one for the history books. Not only collective in its production, but also in spirit, Pound for Pound
came to fruition thanks to the help of a successful Pledge campaign. Smashing their fundraising target, Leeds-to-London dub group Gentleman’s Dub Club and groove riders The Nextmen were able to self-release the 12-track album last Friday, much to the delight of their loyal following
Gentleman’s Dub Club really have taken the helm of the ship, steering the winding grooves of opener ‘Highs and Lows’ while Joe Dukie adds a splash of funk to the mix. Dukie’s raspy vocals float heavenly above brass elements, tight drums and an infectiously swaggering bassline. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this track, which has a bright future as a summer afternoon BBQ jam, set on repeat.
‘Spooky’ incorporates the best aspects of ska and dub; a spin on The Specials ‘Ghost Town’ riff with a piercing keyboard twist; echoing vocals that fade smoothly into the steady backing drum beat and Hollie Cook’s balmy tone. Cook’s vocals blend masterfully into a mellow beat, her voice trailing off languidly at the end of each chorus: “The ghost of you is there / In my spooky love affair / I hope that you still care / About a spooky love affair”. While it’s no out-and-out anthem, ‘Spooky’ is a quietly understated track that certainly stands tall amongst the rest.
Released as a single ahead of the album drop, ‘Rudeboy’ is propelled by Bristol lyricist and bass heavyweight Gardna. A chanting chorus “Mama didn’t raise this rudeboy / He was raised in the dance” is masterfully engineered for the festival stage – it’s nigh on impossible not to test the limits of the speakers with this track. Exploiting deep brass and warbling samples feels distinctly Gentleman’s Dub Club, but Gardna carves his own space in the song with sharp, quick-fire lyrics.
At the album’s mid-section, Kiko Bun adds dashes of satirical spice to the mix. ‘See You Next Tuesday’, a twinkling and up-tempo track, oozes adolescent summertime joy in Kiko Bun’s childlike la la la’s. A frequent collaborator on Pound for Pound, his later two tracks ‘County Line’ and ‘Done It Again’ are refreshingly dissimilar. He’s a chameleon of the genres; while ‘County Line’ sits comfortably in classic 90s reggae, ‘Done It Again’ explores a more contemporary avenue by adding subtle electronic essences and frank, speak-song lyricism.
Crooning vocals open for Eva Lazarus’ first collaboration ‘Misty Eyes’. Tinged with rebellious flirtation (“Misty eyes I know what you’re looking for / Misty eyes I know what you need”) the back-and-forth between Lazarus and Gentleman’s Dub Club lead vocalist Jonathan turns a steady, slow burner into a sexy exchange. ‘Running Scared’ continues in the same vein, inviting frequent collaborator with Mungo’s Hi Fi, Parly B, into the jam session. Lazarus is given space to entice and excite with her sooty tone.
Closing out Pound for Pound, Eva Lazarus and Gardna kick start an evolution of traditional reggae sound – bursting with cheeky dub flavour and steady rolling bass, ‘Pristine’ is the product of crystal clear vision and excellent production from The Nextmen and Gentleman’s Dub Club.
Pound for Pound
encapsulates all that British reggae has to offer: collective, jubilant grooves. Reggae has always had an open and inclusive philosophy, compiling collaborative experiences and sounds to create definitive feel-good music. The sheer volume of collaborators on this album just goes to show it’s a community-driven album that boasts some of the best work from reggae veterans and up-and-comers alike. Eva Lazarus and Hollie Cook offer their rebellious, feminine touch to Parly B, Gardna and J Man’s bolshy, swaggering social commentaries; while Joe Dukie brings a touch of vintage excellence to offset Kiko Bun’s ever-evolving modern vision. Pound for Pound
is a real pleasure from start to finish, that’s set to linger across festival stages all summer long.