Black Grape: Stupid Stupid Stupid

Black Grape
Stupid Stupid Stupid

IN 1995, ARCHTYPAL British yob Shaun Ryder staggered out of the wreckage of the Happy Mondays, insisting that the confused Afrophilia, unmitigated substance abuse, and woozy demi-funk of his defunct band were still good for a laugh. A minor triumph of spirited persistence over competence, Black Grape's 1995 debut It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah showcased Ryder tunelessly rasping lines like "Can you feel the spirit of the Lord?"; punky football chants that mutated into drunken sing alongs; and lilting beats that seemed to celebrate the fact that they didn't stumble and collapse entirely.

Stupid Stupid Stupid rejoins that same party around 4 in the morning to find Black Grape making like a wasted straggler who maintains that everyone is still having a good time--although he sounds ready for bed himself. It's passably dumb fun, but hardly as defiantly stupid as advertised. Rather than lunging forward, the beat generally hops from foot to foot while the guitars riff upward for a few notes, then down again monotonously. Ryder's melodies work minor variations on the Soupdragons' cover of "I'm Free," and he reaches his wit's end with "Get Higher," in which a spot-on Reagan impersonator praises pot. Even Cheech and Chong would have had the sense to mock an incumbent.

In the UK, where the official conduits of hype gush with an egregiousness that shames Stateside equivalents, Stupid has already been dubbed "The Greatest Album in the World," just beating out whatever record held that title last month. True indeed, an ocean's length out of context, Black Grape's impressive level of banality might make them the UK's answer to Sugar Ray; "Marbles," for instance, features a lively jumble of received Stax horns and one-fingered organ doodles, all hooked by the inane query "Why you say yes when you mean no?"

In an age of commodified hedonism, Ryder's commitment to an unchallenging sway that allows the rhythmically stunted to shuffle their feet without having to set down their beers--coupled with his leering interest in "skanky" women--makes this icon of drug-gobbling tastelessness only marginally distinguishable from a frat boy after three pitchers of Bud. Word is still out on whether or not frat boys can distinguish him from each other.

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