The Menagerie

The Menagerie
7
Brighton-based rap group the Menagerie released their debut album, Wild Kingdom, in 2005, and since then it's been years of relentless touring and solo projects. Originally a tight quartet (producer Tom Caruana, DJ Nick Maxwell and rappers Dr. Syntax and Professor Elemental), the Menagerie have expanded into a rather large collective, with the addition of a bunch of MCs, including Canadian Baba Brinkman, for sophomore album Irregular Spirits. The inclusion of Brinkman, whose psycho appearance on the title track is one of the album highlights, provides a pretty good indication of the twists to expect. With this collective of weirdo rappers, the braggadocio battle raps that are the focus of the new album are jam-packed with oddball references and absurd boasts. Tom Caruana's boom-bap production is just quirky enough to be a nice fit, although a few more up-tempo tracks like "Ice Cold" or grimy numbers like "Feel So Sick" would have been welcome. Also, when you have a talented singer such as Sadie Jemmet in your ranks, it's a little unusual to confine the singing to one solo song — the trip-hop-sounding "Shelter You" — rather than spread her talents across a few tracks. Regardless, Irregular Spirits is an enjoyable album that should please adventurous fans that don't require their hip-hop heroes to be hard rocks. (Tea Sea)