Mike Skinner once said “I always imagined that there’d be someone who would call out if I talked about something I didn’t know and I didn’t know my Moet from my Perignon.” And it is a line that sticks. While half of Manchester attempt to fixate on governmental proceedings with politically charged anecdotes that are as self-indulgent and uninspiring as an episode of Secret Eaters, the other half attempts to harbour brutal portrayals of reality. Skinner, naturally, was the latter. And only four months on from their debut long awaited album ‘Down in the Game’, Dirty North return with their latest release ‘The Freestyle EP’ to join him.

Perhaps energised by a new bassist, rap coloured reggae troupe Dirty North appear to have aged. Gone are the days of coarsely captured recordings mixed with dusky off-beat compositions and tight vocals. A new formula has blossomed. Electric organs decorate ‘Smokin Mary’ – a tune which finally shows their vocalist can sing as well as spit – and swirling late nineties piano adorn ’88’. If ‘Down with the Game’ showed their raucous, messier side, ‘The Freestyle EP’ displays a warped take on modern day pop sensibilities. The edge, however, is not all lost. “Blood stains on the concrete road, nobody helps but everybody knows, we’re living in a violent place where the sins take you away” is heavily mouthed out amid scenes of distortion covered guitars and biting grooves on ‘Sin City’ and the band’s raw energy which saw hoards of Mancunian’s awaiting their debut release is revisited in ‘Wonderland’.

Dirty North’s statement is clear. “More to my energy, more to my thinking, more to my eating and less to my drinking.” And this liberating line taken from the release’s opener ‘Graveyard’, says more about the ep than any review can. Although the core remains, Dirty North are getting wiser.

If Skinner’s words are right it’s no wonder ‘The Freestyle EP’ cenotaph should read like a lyric from ‘88’. “I ain’t writing shit down this time, all I got is a spliff, a brew and a rhyme.”

Words by Clive K Hammond


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