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8 out of 10
There are two schools of thought surrounding the origins of disco music, the most widely recognised of which concerns African American communities in New York in the early 70s. The other, slightly less subscribed to version of events is that it was in fact created by a lanky Scotsman in his Dumfries bedroom circa 2006. While we may never know the truth, the aforementioned Scotsman's affection for the genre has thrown up a second Calvin Harris album, Ready for the Weekend.
While 2009 has seen a deluge of synth-toting female stars (Lady Gaga, Little Boots, Pixie Lott), the boys have had less of a look in with Frankmusic as the only real notable (unless you count Dan Black of course. Let's face it; no-one should count Dan Black). Harris is a far less marmite proposition than Frank however and it's quite easy to like much of Ready for the Weekend even if you could only manage thinly-veiled disgust for his debut.
I Created Disco was an enjoyable record in places, but for the most part it was rigidly formulaic. While several of the songs on RFTW adhere to the same template, it's when Harris experiments with additional instrumentation such as the acoustic guitars at the beginning of Blue or Relax that the sonic landscape moves beyond a gauntlet of synthesisers and drums machines and finds a niche of its own. Worst Day also features an acoustic intro but is arguably the worst track on show here, neither catchy enough to make anyone want to dance nor strong enough in its narrative to be a compelling listen. It does feature an excellent cameo from US rapper Izza Kizza though, provided you make it that far into the track.
Aside from session backing singer Mary Pearce's powerful bluster through the chorus of the titular second single, the only other real collaboration is the chart-topping Dance Wiv Me which still sounds as fresh as when it was first released and contains the best bass line Harris has mustered since The Girls. It also marks the beginning of what could be a long and fruitful partnership with Dizzee Rascal; Harris has since produced the UK star's latest single Holiday and Dizzee has recently gone on record as saying a whole album starring the two is a possibility.
First single I'm Not Alone shows a side to his songwriting that his debut barely hinted at and is the first real surprise of the album. Building again from a simple base of guitar and vocals, the themes of isolation and insecurity lend it a weight that "I get all the girls, I get all the girls" wouldn't be able to achieve if it was tied to a lorry load of bricks. Luckily before things get too depressing and dance floors across the nation are strewn with corpses, the inevitably massive synth kicks in and normal service is resumed. In contrast to this and by his own layered standards, You Used to Hold Me is positively minimalist and all the more effective for it.
While there's plenty of positives in the above chunks of text, one thing still grates about the Calvin Harris experience; the words. Simplicity's not necessarily a bad thing but the lyric sheet (were the album to actually come with one) reads like something a five year old would scrawl with a crayon. After a lobotomy. He sets the bar too high too early with the colossal four syllables of 'colosseum' in opening track The Rain and after that it's downhill to the trough that is Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La. While mainstream dance music may not be renowned for its wordiness, the fact that both online and in interviews Harris comes across as an intelligent, articulate guy can make this a mildly frustrating listen. The two weak instrumentals Burns Night and 5iliconeator don't cover themselves in glory either, the former pointless and the latter a lazy blend of beeps and piano chords with a total of zero emotional resonance.
In summary: Pretty likeable bloke makes pretty likeable album. Buy it or don't; either way there's little chance you'll be able to escape it over the coming months.
1. The Rain
2. Ready for the Weekend
3. Stars Come Out
4. You Used to Hold Me
6. I'm Not Alone
8. Worst Day
11. Burns Night
12. Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La
13. Dance Wiv Me