Back from their respective solo indulgences – an impressive but little-heralded collaboration fest from Dan and a punky exercise in lyrical witticisms for Pip – the partnership rebranded as DS vs. SLP has always been better together. In ‘Repent, Replenish, Repeat’ there’s a newfound aggression, driven by heavily personalized lyrics from Pip: while ‘Angles’ and ‘The Logic Of Chance’ found their inspiration in the a world of cutting social commentary, the latest seems far more inwards glancing and, surprisingly, darker as a result.
Here, the beats are sharper and more dance floor focused while the pop aesthetics of tracks like ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’, ‘Get Better’ and ‘Sick Tonight’ are a thing of the past: this is a true hip-hop album, though merciful and alluringly free of the genre’s unfortunately tendency towards bouts of bigotry and bling. Pip’s always been insightful on the subject: despite making his name as a rapper, he grew up on the slightly less pacey witticisms of Fat Mike, Billie Joe Armstrong and Dexter Holland rather than Tupac and B.I.G., a point rammed home in ‘Gold Teeth’, which features the mocking, vocoder-heavy chorus line ‘rapper’s wear bling because they wanna look pretty’.
The lyrics aren’t going to be for everyone, of course – we’ve heard Pip described as pretentious more than once – but they’re certainly the high point here. Opener ‘Stunner’ is the most immediately arresting, particularly in the idiomatic twisting of early verse “the light at the end of the tunnel, it was a fire now I’m choking…”. There’s some strange subject matter wedged in here, though, particularly in ‘Nightbus Sleepers’, which paints a picture of 3am transport shenanigans without ever really reaching a point, evocative imagery aside. ‘Porter’ is another insight: an odd story in which Scroobius Pip paints himself, backed by minimalist yet hefty beats from an ever-improving Le Sac.
The lack of a real stand out track amongst an already slightly shorter-than-ideal (nine tracks, perhaps half of them forgettable) is an issue, though. As good as Pip’s rhyming can be, this doesn’t have the ‘jump up and sing it’ quality of the duo at their best; it’s more an exercise in spitting anger and dropping some seriously substantial beats than anything else. Le Sac’s solo career – less notable than Pip’s as it might have been – had a real effect on the inventiveness of his backing beats, and for the first time the beatsmith half of the partnership is the more memorable one.
That’s not to say ‘Repent, Replenish, Repeat’ is a bad album, not by any stretch. It just lacks that very thing that made Le Sac vs. Pip such a success in the first place. The pretentiousness/ brilliance (delete as applicable) is tucked fairly well away from view until the ‘revenge through success’ message of closer ‘You Will See Me’, and unlike ‘Stake A Claim’, ‘Great Britain’ and ‘Letter From God To Man’, there doesn’t seem to be any real overriding point to it all.
It’d be wrong to suggest music has to have a point; clearly music for its own sake is often a wonderful thing. We’ve just got so used to that inner message from this pair that picking holes in society or daringly ripping into ‘selfish’ suicide seemed like their reason for being. Instead, we have an album for the hip-hop purists; a record that would arguably do better without the duo’s preceding commercial success that sits lyrically closer to Pip’s epic early release ‘1000 Words’ than anything that’s followed. At times it’s compelling, but we find ourselves longing for something just a little more individual.