30.03.2010, Words by Charlie Jones

Tons of Friends

It seems like an absolute age ago that I was out rocking to CROOKERS first releases back when the melting pot of Electro-Baile-Bassline-Whatever you call it felt fresh and exciting. Tastes moves fast, though, and Crookers first official album (probably about 12 months late in terms of it’s relevance) has dropped and it couldn’t be titled more aptly. ‘Tons of Friends’ sees them link up with a pretty much who’s who of clubland plus some less well-known names. And Tim Burgess. I am guessing that since Crookers have hit mainstream with Day and Night and Bonkers that the album will be very radio-friendly and perhaps slightly transient. Especially compared to the earlier Ghetto-Garage they put out back in 2007/2008 (‘Funk Mundial’, ‘Knobbers EP’). Anyway, Let’s see how it goes….

Track: We Love Animals
Friends: Soulwax, Mixhell
Cheesy vocal intro aside the staccato bleepy riffs that start the album have a definite Soulwax sound to them. Those big electro build up that all parties involved are known for drops into lovely synth-bass tracks cut apart by the processed vocal stabs and very Soulwax squelchy acid lines. Crossing genres into a Hip-Hop breakdown then building up to a big finish very reminiscent of Nite Versions. Top start!

Track: No Security
Friend: Kelis
Kelis over dubstep, yes please! It’s a shame however that this wasn’t around about a year ago, when in your face NI Massive style LFO basslines were heard everywhere and before producers like Scuba, Martyn and 2562 took the dub-sound to a whole new level. A chorus to die for lifts the track hugely, proving again that Crookers can mash-up a genre to make it their own.

Track: Natural Born Hustler
Friend: Pitbull
Eugh. There are not a lot of things I like less than macho, self-obsessed rap lyrics over faux-ghetto electro tracks (see MSTRKRFTFist of God). I also have no idea who Pitbull is but after this won’t be looking too hard for his back catalogue. After the first 3 tracks I get the feeling this album will be a somewhat checklist of how many different genres Crookers can fit into an album.

Track: Let’s Get Beezy
Friend: Will.I.Am
Didn’t we have enough tracks made last year that were made entirely of telephone sound samples? Not very interesting lyrically either and over before it really goes anywhere.

Track: Park The Truck
Friend: Spank Rock
I don’t really get a lot from this either. Nice beat but comes across as too well-produced to be interesting and too dark and minimal to be stand-out. I used to know Spank Rock as being tongue in cheek, crass and amazingly fun live but there is no character to his lyrics. Filler.

Track: Hold Up Your Hand
Friend: Roisin Murphy
What sounds like the build up to big Electro track drops into a rather sweet Four Tet-esque half step attack. This heavily compressed journey appears as Crookers most interesting experiment so far into the album. Roisin’s vocals are lovely but it doesn’t sound like it belongs on the album. It’s much better than the previous five tracks. The only track so far that I can see myself going back and listening to a fair few times again.

Track: Hip Hop Changed
Friend: Rye-Rye
We are now entering Diplo (interviewed here) territory as Crookers recruit American girl Rye-Rye to flow over a Baltimore-influenced track that probably would have sounded great 12 months ago. Another big-build signature Crookers drops into another go at a LFO saw-like Dubtep Bassline. Nicely done but nothing ground-breaking.

Track: Cooler Couleur
Friend: Yelle
Ah man I have such a thing for French accents in vocals. I also have a thing about name dropping in vocals. Needless to say the later does bring this track down a notch. Yelle sounds really cute compared to the other vocal guests so far and is really nicely used throughout. An almost Balkan-Ska sound is the backbone to the track that mashes up beautifully with a Downtempo break.

Track: Birthday Bash
Friends: The Very Best, Marine & Dargan Daminco
You can tick Afrobeat off the spotters-list now as Crookers team up with Radioclit’s The Very Best to produce what sounds like a vocalised Afro version of their earlier releases on Man Recordings. Again, a really well-produced and good take on a genre but doesn’t do anything new that we haven’t heard on The Very Best’s mixtapes and albums.

Track: Put Your Hands On Me
Friends: Cardinal Offishore & Carla-Maine.
Another track featuring a friend I have no prior knowledge of. A name-dropping verse but this time we can add a chorus that I am convinced I have heard before somewhere. I definitely feel now that Crookers have set themselves the goal of producing tracks where they can use as many different styles of synth production as possible. Technically interesting, yes. Sonically interesting. The Jury’s out.

Track: Royal T
Friend: Roisin Murphy
The first friend to make a return and how very welcome it is. There are so many genres in this track that it is a credit to Crookers. They make them sound so natural together with the vocals. Frittering between Halfstep, Dubstep and very 90’s House definitely proves the talent that resides within the Italian duo. Best club orientated track so far.

Track: Remedy
Friend: Miike Snow
A meeting of two of 2009’s biggest blogstars could go either way I thought. Remedy doesn’t really go anywhere though. It just kinda stays at the same (average) throughout.

Track: Arena
Friends: Poirier & Face-T
Oh no, another track featuring friends I am unaware existed until reading the tracklist and now starting with a Dancehall lazer. Hmm. Does nothing to change my initial reaction.

Theme: Tee-Pee Theme
Friend: Drop The Lime
Fuck me this is annoying. Even though it’s 1minute 40seconds the end couldn’t come sooner.

Track: Transilvania
Friend: Steel Lord
After the last two tracks I would think anything could sound better. Thankfully Transilvania does. Just. Radio-friendly vocals over a not quite as radio-friendly beat. Nearly a good track.

Track: Have Mercy
Friend: Carrie
Ok, so because La Roux made female vocals vaguely acceptable over Dubstep tracks does it mean we have to take every opportunity to marry the two? Carrie’s vocals have a poetic anguish and want about them that I would love to hear in other circumstances (note to self: Google ‘Carrie’ and delve further than the movie). This track offers the first of the guests previously been anonymous to me that I have not found cringe-worthy.

Track: Jump Up
Friends: Major Lazer, Leftside & Supahype
So this means a minimum of six people have worked on this track. Too many cooks spoil the broth, maybe. Pretty standard. Ticks the boxes… again.

Track: Lone White Wolf
Friend: Tim Burgess
The friend in question suggests that this track will be a radical departure from anything else on this album and it definitely doesn’t disappoint in that respect. A Crookers take on hillbilly campfire blues. Works extremely well but deserves to be showcased somewhere other than the tail end of this album.

Track: Day N Nite Acapella
Friend: Uncredited
Digga digga digga digga digga digga digga digga dum dum dum dum. Haha.

Track: Embrace the Martian
Friend: Kid Cudi
Apart from the previous acapella this is the ‘oldest’ Crookers track on the album. If you logged onto the internet in 2009 you will know this.

So, Crookers debut album. A lot of what you can expect and when they get it right, they really get it spot on. Great in places but a bit let down by poor generic collaborations.

Crookers played in a warehouse. Can you spot yourself in our gallery?

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