What comes to mind when you think of English music? I go straight to the 90’s with Oasis, Blur and Gorillaz. Some though may think of Morrissey. Others may think more recently of those who have defined modern British music – Ed Sheeran, Rizzle Kicks. Whatever you think of, there is a helping of all of these iconic Brits on Punk-Rap act Mid Reflections’ debut EP Outcasts.
There are two things which shine through the 4-track EP. One is what made their compatriots so distinctive and it’s their embrace of their regional identity. In this case their London tone and attitude is a great departure from the American camouflage that we have become so normalised by.
The other is the range of influences here, as implied. It gives strong impressions of Ed Sheeran’s You Need Me I don’t Need You in parts due to vibrant and intricate guitar parts tied to frequent lashing lyrical exchanges. At other times, the more downtrodden parts resonate more towards a Gorillaz-edge. If the production value on this EP (which is more or less spot-on) was dialled up a few notches, there could be some comparison between Hollywood Undead.
Opening title-track Outcast is straight to the point and straight into the chorus. Like the whole of the release, you find Mid Reflections accessing serious topics by using flippant lines: “Wasn’t easy as an outcast | Didn’t want to show my face like I’m Kenny from South Park”. It means you don’t take them that seriously so it’s easier to engage with these themes. It forecasts a general song make-up of dynamically pin-point breathless rapping showing off the astounding lung capacity of Rapper Matthew Bishop, aka 2T’z. This is enforced with basic but watertight drum rhythms, moving well into chanty choruses and an array of clean and distorted guitar parts.
Elsewhere, they seem to take a swipe at The Government amongst other things on Illusions with a cockier, upbeat vibe. Bishop is at his razor sharpest on Legalise It one that fuses quite an old-school riff with a shouty chorus. No second guesses what this one is about, he leaves you in his dust but you do struggle to really catch all of what he says. Foes is the calmest of the lot and my personal favourite. The binding guitar just works with Bishop’s rap style here. The melody ducks and dives patiently, allowing Bishop to push himself technically but it’s not over the top. It drops off nicely into a borderline spoken chorus, but spoiled by a bit of a sore-thumb mid-section – that said, it’s a solid closing touch overall.
A bare-knuckled and bare-faced approach to lyric-writing and song-writing works well with it’s overall charm and audacity. We’ve seen how rap can be fused with different alternative styles over the years, this offering by Mid Reflections is a refreshing one and despite (or because of) it’s eclecticism, doesn’t smack of imitation. It’s a promising EP, one that could also be viewed as novelty though. It is a rough diamond, so there is a bit of polishing to do – particularly on the often sloppy song outros – to take it to the next level that said: [7/10]
Outcasts is out now via their website.