CD reviews

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 12:00am

Stereo MC's


Island Records

The word 'favourite' seems a bit, well, anoraky when smeared adjectivally over the Stereos MC's funked-up grooves, but it is still the best word to describe the 18 tracks on Retroactive (which is itself a pretty solid adjective to mean 'the best of'). The MC's have been producing their own take on dance/hip-hop for 15 years - though with a strangely absent-minded eight-year break between 1993 and 2001 - and the cream numbers from their four albums to date whip up splendidly into this sticky-fingered musical pavlova.

Granted, the cake does seem in danger of seeming stale. Retroactive's icing, filling and sponge layers all come from the 1993 stand-out album Connected, which towers above anything else the British hipsters did before or since, even if their 2001 comeback album, Deep Down And Dirty, was a creditable reminder of their panache with a drum machine and the slouchy demotic accents of provincial England.

It is tempting to see Retroactive as a summary of the MC's oeuvre designed to showcase their skill - fusing the brittle vocal rhythms of hip-hop and the lanky, swaying dance grooves of clubland, to an almost erotic degree - and act as a launchpad for a new style. We will have to see, but the bottom line is that there are only a couple of duffers here (the absurd lyrics of On 33, the perversely screechy What Is Soul?).

A bonus is that if you enjoyed the easy-going club scene of the early 90s, Retroactive's low-slung vibe will bring an easy flutter of smiley memories. Perhaps even, in the case of the best-known hit Connected, a deep base thud of nostalgia.