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Plan b lets rip with both barrels blazing

plan b Ill Manors (Atlantic 679)

You've got the single and the movie. Now it's soundtrack time as Benjamin Ballance-Drew (the artist known as Plan B) drops his 10-track musical mockumentary about life in "David Cameron's broken Britain".

Turning both barrels on life in a depressed housing complex in east London, the lad dishes a song-cycle that charts events across an urban landscape "where dark s**t goes on at night". All the bad stuff revolves around drugs and drug-dealing.

An aura of menace and bloody violence oozes from Plan B's sonic miasma of desperation, hopelessness and rage.

No one expects a soft-focus morality tale from the maker of The Defamation of Strickland Banks. But few could have anticipated the viciousness with which Plan B puts the boot in.

Back in the day, Plan B would have been punk hardcore. A crusading Situationist with a manifesto of revolutionary change. But that was then. The society he's inherited is more complex, more ruthless. Its double-edged values balanced on a tilt-switch of incipient Armageddon.

Fine and dandy, but are the tunes any bleedin' good?

Returning to his hip-hop roots, Plan B lets rip on the title track with a torrent of social observation that underlines his position as the angry cousin of The Streets' Mike Skinner.



malaise

In the tradition of The Jam and The Specials, Plan B chronicles a social malaise that most of us are only acquainted with through newspaper headlines. Top pop. But the album is no Superfly (Curtis Mayfield), no What's Going On (Marvin Gaye), no Fear of a Black Planet (Public Enemy).

Although patchy, it's got some good stuff. Plan B likes his musical all-sorts. Dancehall reggae influence -- Drug Dealer. Vintage soul -- Playing With Fire, which features Labrinth. And the Moses of English rap, John Cooper Clark on Pity the Pilgrim. The Runaway is stodgy rap filler. Deepest Shame is sentimental tosh. Kano graces Live Once with a hint of aspirational gospel. So much for variety.

But expect this to play big at the next Tory party conference. HHHII