'Since The Last Time'
Arrested Development have always been all about the positive vibes, and this album has no shortage of them. It's the kind of LP that makes you wish for summer skies - to best enjoy it, pull down the shades, turn up the lights and heating, and have an indoor barbecue (or 'cook-out' as they would no doubt say). This is definite chicken-and-beers-in-the-park music. Opener Since The Last Time muses on the myriad of changes - solo careers, children and marriages - that the band have gone through since their celebrated debut '3 Years, 5 Months and 6 Days in The Life Of...' was released. Miracles takes the riff from I Believe In Miracles as the jump-off point for an upbeat funk track, exploring faith and the miracle of the ordinary. Yes, Speech is a Christian and his lyrics reflect this, but he is rarely didactic. His faith, like his lyrics, are a celebration of what the so-called 'cool' mafia term 'the mundane' - friendship, love, watching your seeds grow, harmony with nature and spiritual strength are his themes. The second half of the album displays an admirable ear for a club cut, with some straight up head-nodding moments on Inner City and I Know I'm Bad that remind you what an eloquent, gifted MC Speech is, and how tight AD's live instrumentation-based approach to hip-hop remains. In many ways their only peers are the arguably superior The Roots, but AD need not emulate. There is no-one working harder to promote positivity and happiness in hip-hop, when so many portray only darkness. Like a ray of sunshine, AD are back, and boy, are they welcome. [Bram Gieben]