When I dived into the debut album from Black Grape, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was riding on the high of knowing that Shaun Ryder had sung Dare, and I felt that was convincing enough to listen to an entire album’s worth of his work. Blending Madchester melodies with the rise of Britpop, Black Grape’s first album, It’s Great When You’re Straight Yeah, is nothing short of brilliant.
The consistency that leads throughout the entire album is what makes It’s Great When You’re Straight Yeah work so well. The singles aren’t overstated or better than any of the songs that are album exclusive, they fall nicely into place alongside some of Black Grape’s best work. A Big Day in the North in particular is so unlike anything else to appear on the album, it’s quite perplexing that it works when slotted right in the middle of the album; coming right after Yeah Yeah Brother and before Shake Well Before Opening, a song which opens with “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.”
Football hooliganism, drugs and preachiness come through in full force throughout the tone of the album, and that’s not entirely a bad thing.
By far the most impressive part of the album is Ryder’s lyrics. I hadn’t expected much, but some of his songs are the exact blend of metaphor and mystery. Aside from Tamazi Party, which is a bit on the nose about its message of drugs but still quite the enjoyable song, Ryder more or less keeps the meaning of his work well hidden. It’s not an issue either, since the frequency of strong guitar riffs and backing music to his lyrics is just as enjoyable as his vocal strengths. It’s a fun album, there’s a little bit of rhyme and reason to it, but for the most part it’s just a generally enjoyable piece.
There are no songs that let the album down, maybe In the Name of the Father, that’s probably the weakest part of the album. But then again, it’s definitely not a bad song, far from it. Ten consistently solid songs can be found throughout, and each of them are without a doubt worth listening to. Highlights of the album are of course Tamazi Party, A Big Day in the North and how can you not enjoy the final song of the album, Little Bob?
The upbeat melodies you’d find on a Take That album blended with the harsh Mancunian swearing of Shaun Ryder is a mixture worth listening to. I didn’t think it’d work, but it’s quite incredible. Not quite Britpop though, as it lacks that punch undertone throughout. Certainly diving further and further into the Madchester branch of music as the album wears on, It’s Great When You’re Straight Yeah is a strong introduction to Black Grape’s discography.