Monday 11 December 2017

An underclass hero is something to be

John Meagher

John Meagher

plan b

Ill Manors

(Warner Bros)


Ben Drew -- aka Plan B -- is a one-man cottage industry. Not only has he written and directed the new British youth crime drama Ill Manors, but he has also delivered its soundtrack.

The album boasts six tracks that appear in the film as well as incidental music and snatches of dialogue from the movie and it demonstrates Drew's ability to pen genre-straddling music that packs a powerful punch.

The title track, in particular, is a tour de force as Drew lacerates the "little rich boys" who have transformed his beloved east London -- but not for the better.

The song drips with anger at how an underclass of young men have been left marginalised in the very environment that has been spruced up for the Olympics, but not for those who live there.

He's a razor-sharp lyricist too as he notes that the song's protagonist is "just another poster boy for David Cameron's broken Britain".

Drew displayed an ability to both croon and rap on his fine debut album, The Defamation of Strickland Banks, but here his sonic palate is widened yet further. John Cooper Clarke, the veteran punk-poet, spits out blunt, brutal words on the ominous Pity the Plight while English singer-songwriter Labrinth imbues Playing with Fire with a similarly dark, portentous world-view.

Elsewhere, Deepest Shame offers a more soulful version of Michelle -- the hip-hop track which airs in the film and is included in special editions of this soundtrack album.

Drew has insisted that this album can stand on its own legs, away from the film, and that's true to an extent. The best songs are arresting and politicised and rooted in the here and now in a way that very few of his contemporaries have achieved.

But such powerful statements are surrounded by slight sketches -- atmospheric filler, if you will.

KEY TRACKS Ill Manors; Playing with Fire

Day & Night

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