The album features collaborations with the likes of Ragga Twins, Shut Up And Dance, Wideboys, Freestylers and MC Skibadee
In what may actually be a world record, rave veterans RatPack finally release their debut album, some 28 years on from the release of their debut single Jaffa Cakes. And even then they've got a bunch of mates in to help them! "Lazy," some people would call that...
Then again, those people would probably change their minds pretty quickly once they saw just how stellar the list of contributors actually is. Try Shut Up And Dance, Ragga Twins, MC Skibadee, The Wideboys, Freestylers, Billy Daniel Bunter, Baby D, Slipmatt and King Yoof on for size! Just the fact that they can lure such a line-up into the studio tells you all you need to know about just how esteemed these UK originators still are.
So is the album any good? Yes, in a word. Not doing a full track-by-track here - partly because there's 19 of the damn things, and partly because my notes for a lot of them are quite similar. 'Rave vs speed garage', it says next to Wideboys collab Hands Of Time, which was out last year as a single. 'Rave vs bassline', it says next to Live Your Life, which features a female vocal from Stephanie Smart. 'Rave vs bass', it says next to Carry On, which is credited to RatPack Vs The Freestylers. And, er, 'Rave vs rave!' it says next to the team-up with fellow scene legend Slipmatt, Let Yourself Go.
You get the idea. But an updated take on the original RatPack sound for the 'bass music' generation is only half the story, because The (co)LabRats also sees them exploring wider territory. Tell Me The Reason (feat. 28Hutz and Lady Chann) explores the crossover zone between jungle and dancehall, Baby D collab Sky is the closest thing to a two-step soul anthem they're ever likely to produce, Smooth Jam is a mellow, summery instrumental groove, and Hot 4 U ventures towards pop territory. Oh yeah, and then there's Old Skool Ting, which sees RatPack, Ragga Twins, King Yoof and Billy Daniel Bunter teaming up for a slice of proper skankin' reggae/dancehall, just in time for Carnival season. One-trick ponies these guys aren't.
But rockin' the rave with a sense of humour was what this duo always did best, and whether it's the festival breakbeat anthem-in-waiting that is Shut Up And Dance team-up We Come To Rock, the golden era nostalgia of Time To Jack with its hands-in-the-air pianos, squelching acid and lyrical nod to Adonis, or the 2017 refix of 1999 Confetti Records release Clipper - a cockney-fied mash-up of Beenie's Who Am I? and a very famous Cuba Gooding-via-Acen vocal, replete with cheeky toker references - it still is. What we're gonna do right here is go back...
Words: Russell Deeks
Release date: 7 July
Review Score: 8