Previously signed to Mike Skinner’s The Beats label, outspoken hip-pop chart-topper Example appears to be following in his former boss’ footsteps judging by his fourth studio album, The Evolution Of Man.
Like The Streets’ woefully misguided The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living, the follow-up to 2011’s hedonistic Playing In The Shadows abandons the suburban geezer shtick that made some women want to be with him (and some men want to be him), and instead bemoans the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll celebrity lifestyle he once revelled in.
The self-indulgent and self-pitying tales of regret on The Evolution Of Man might be a little easier to stomach were they not surrounded by such an abrasive and disharmonious wall of noise.
Early singles “Kickstarts,” “Won’t Go Quietly” and “Watch The Sun Come Up” prove that Example knows his way around a great pop melody. But apart from the U2-goes-trance of “Say Nothing,” any similar infectious anthems have been sacrificed for unforgivably generic fratstep wobbles (“Perfect Replacement”) brainless early 90s rave pastiches (“Crying Out For Help”) and bizarre attempts to revive the nu-metal scene (“Come Taste The Rainbow”).
It’s all the more disappointing considering Example has managed to assemble a pretty impressive behind-the-scenes team that are capable of so much better, from dubstep pioneers Benga and Skream, to drum ‘n’ bass maestro Friction, to Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, although how hipster Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe can afford to be so snobbish when he produces such formulaic nonsense as “Blood From A Stone” is a mystery.
And while Example’s vocals have never been his strong point, he sounds positively comatose on many of this album’s thirteen tracks, particularly on the shimmering Balearics of “Queen Of Your Dreams,” which sounds like Crash Test Dummies have gate-crashed the White Isle.
The likes of Drake and Frank Ocean have shown it’s possible to wallow in navel-gazing misery without boring listeners into a stupor. And while The Evolution Of Man may have allowed Example to exorcise his demons, it’s a shame he had to do so in such a charmless, monotonous and wearying manner.