Stereo MCs Deep Down and Dirty

With almost a whole decade in between releases, it's quite admirable to see that the Stereo MCs' primary members have managed to preserve the distinctive amalgam of dance, pop, funk and hip-hop they brought to the masses in the early '90s. Listening to Deep Down & Dirty, it seems like the group missed out on cashing in on the attention afforded UK acts fusing dance genres were getting by '95, but it also underlines how they themselves were contributors to that sound. When a group comes back after such a long layoff, they're usually caught up between past glories and demonstrating their progression as a unit. The Stereo MCs, however, don't seem the least bit concerned with the latter, and this is a good and a bad thing. With the loose funk and filtered vocals of "Breeze" and the taut live funk workout "Graffiti," the group is in their element and show their enduring relevance. However, "Sofisticated" sounds like a direct response to the Happy Mondays' "Step On," from the halcyon days of the Madchester era, and their excursions into dub are disappointingly lightweight. The long and short of it is that the Stereo MCs probably won't be converting new listeners with this effort, long-time followers will be satisfied to hear something new from them, but if you haven't been turned on to Rob B's soccer stadium-type crooning and rambling musings by now, then you're probably not going to start now. (Universal)