THE OUTFIT - Forgotten Class
When a CD drops on your mat from a band featuring Jeff Turner, lead singer of punk/Oi! legends The Cockney Rejects, you know what to expect. Catchy working class anthems of terrace tearaways 'aving it large! So as I readied myself for the opening number I was prepared to slip into the comfort zone generated by years of listening to punk rock. Fail!
Named after Al Capone's mob from the 1920's, this crew hails from Custom House, East London, not Chicago. Jeff has teamed up with Louise "Reason" Bowers and Wayne Maynard, both of whom served their time in the trenches on the road with the Rejects. So far, so punk. But when all three entered Peacocks studio at the tail end of last year, what they emerged with was a CD chock-full of hip hop, rap, soul and synth, with just a little bit of punk thrown in for good measure.
OK, so it probably won't be every Cockney Rejects fans cup of tea, and quite frankly I was a bit startled on first hearing. However, after a few plays, I have to say I actually started to like it. Turner's dulcet Cockney tones are instantly recognisable, but surprisingly compliment well the more traditional rapping style of Bowers. Whilst inevitably there is a certain Transatlantic twang to proceedings, the overriding feel is that of a London based take on hip-hop story telling. No more so than on the opening track "Cushty Geez" which takes aim at their dying neighbourhood in the Capital.
Several tracks reminded me of Big Audio Dynamite, most notably "Dangerous Times" and "Get out of my Face". They were a band that was also started by a punk stalwart, in their case The Clash's Mick Jones, as a vehicle to showcase new and diverse musical styles, including hip hop, reggae, and funk. Similarly, The Outfit flit between dub, grime, hip hop and rap, whilst keeping an element of rock to bind the whole thing together. To my ears Bowers comes across as an accomplished East End Eminem on tracks such as "Sitting on the World" and "Nothing Left", whilst Turner does what he does best, gives it to you straight.
If you had asked me beforehand would I have listened to this type of album, honestly I would have said no. But after several listening, I take my hats off to the lads. Whilst I am not about to abandon my punk roots, the diversity and professionalism of the tracks is admirable. So forget your preconceptions and give it a listen, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Oh, and if an incentive is required, all the lads are well connected with the famous Peacock boxing gym and probably know where you live!