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Music Plan B

Published on May 11th, 2018 | by voxx

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Plan B – Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose

Ben Drew’s occasionally thrilling but overcooked fourth…

For a man whose songs often sound like they’re capturing an in-the-moment urgency, Ben Drew has never been hurried into making an album. The 34-year-old East Londoner behind Plan B took four years to follow up the bilious hip-hop of his 2006 debut Who Needs Action When You Got Words with the soulful The Defamation Of Strickland Banks, the album that made him a star, and there’s been six since the grimy anthems of 2012’s Ill Manors. You could call his approach leisurely if he didn’t sound so angry most of the time.

As with every Plan B album, his fourth record cuts the cord with what’s gone immediately before. It’s a stylistic pendulum swing that avoids the murky beats of Ill Manors in favour of a modern pop sound with house music pianos and rhythmic rushes. There’s hardly any rapping, Drew instead delivering these songs with a throaty holler that could direct ships to the shore. Some of it is excellent: the looped synth-pop of ‘Grateful’ is subtly menacing, ‘Heartbeat’ is a vast singalong that would sound just as affecting stripped to its core and ‘Pushin’’ is the record’s hypnotic centrepiece.

But there are some issues. At 14 tracks, it’s too long, and the welcome M.I.A.-style fury of ‘Guess Again’ makes you wish his spiteful side had come out more. The album needs more of his thrilling rapping style; that syncopated tumble of words that make him sound like he’s frothing at the mouth. When there are artists such as Rag’n’Bone Man, Tom Grennan and Sam Smith already out there doing their best big-hearted warble, blending in seems an odd career choice. At his best, Plan B sounds fearless. Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose is a fine record, but the restraint shows.

- By Jake White


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