Album Review: Plan B – ‘Ill Manors’
Plan B has been hard to ignore recently with the release of his controversial film ‘Ill Manors’ - which is also the name of his latest LP. He seems to reinvent himself as an artist in each album, from his explosive 2006 debut ‘Who Needs Actions When You Got Words’ followed by the soul-inspired ‘The Defamation Of Strickland Banks’ in 2010 – and 2012’s ‘Ill Manors’ certainly doesn’t disappoint…
The title track ‘Ill Manors’ takes us back to when Plan B first burst onto the scene in 2006 with his shocking lyrics - he certainly doesn’t shy away with this track. Ben described it to NME as: “bassline, soul with a bit of hip-hop, it has the lyrical depth of the first record in 2006, but the composition is light years ahead.”
He certainly is showing how he has developed over the last six years as an artist. The Guardian said of his latest LP: “for lovers of overtly political music, ‘Ill Manors’ is almost too good to be true: a thrilling release from a multi-platinum star that deals unflinchingly with last summer's riots and still lands on the Radio 1 playlist – the first great mainstream protest song in years.”
There are many collaborations on the album and one that stands out is ‘Playing With Fire’ which features Labrinth, who also produced it. It’s describing the story of a young boy joining a gang, with Ben saying: ‘Now he’s just another poster boy for David Cameron’s Broken Britain.’
Another collaboration that stands out is ‘Live Once’ which features UK MC Kano. You forget how versatile Plan B is with his voice and this certainly captures his vocal range. It’s one of the more positive songs on the album, with the main line saying ‘everything will be okay, come tomorrow’. Kano’s words draw you into the song; their voices and lyricism really complement each other.
Plan B really approaches issues that are going on within the UK at the moment. The song ‘The Runaway’ deals with the subject of prostitution and sex trafficking and how hard it is to escape the circle.
The one song that stands apart on the album and the only song that really shows Plan B’s soulful side is ‘Deepest Shame’. He sings almost throughout the song and the strings in the background tones it down from the rest of the album. It works well, reminding you of his vocal skills and how, as an artist, he really is capable of anything.
Although Plan B almost built up a family audience with ‘The Defamation Of Strickland Banks’ it seems he has gone back to his raw style. The whole album talks about tricky subjects which no other artist would dream of approaching, but it’s real. He approaches subjects that sometimes we as people avoid talking about and for that we salute him. The whole album gets you thinking about how crazy this world really is, yet still the majority of us choose to ignore it. Plan B is back and definitely better than ever.
Words: Jenna Simmons (@JennaJ__)