Stereo MCs Retroactive

The knock against the UK’s Stereo MCs has always been the fact that their music has hardly changed over the course of their career. A listening to this retrospective, which spans from 1988 to the present, does little to dispel this and one is struck by how closely the group adhered to their formula once they passed their embryonic grittiness. Singles from 2001’s Deep Down & Dirty, released after a nine-year absence, sound as if they are trying to recreate the sound of the group reached at their apex on their Supernatural and Connected releases. Yet in truth, the group only really sound like themselves. Rob B’s strangely endearing warbling about positivity and soccer stadium song-inspired patter ensured he was never mistaken for a microphone doctor, but definitely marked him as singular. Along with the Head, the duo were largely responsible for charting a path from the low-budget funk-inspired beginnings to the pop sheen exhibited on the hits "Elevate My Mind,” "Connected” and "Step It Up.” It would have been interesting to situate the group within a UK hip-hop scene that was and still is struggling to find its identity. But with the absence of liner notes to explore this, the group remains a curious yet distinctive anomaly. (Universal)