"Keep It Unreal" (Album, 1999)
DJ Mr Scruff hails from the unlikely centre of dance DJ culture of Stockport, where his obsession with pies and his self deprecating humour give him a genial air. Certainly his music seems to reflect his outlook on life and although not many of the tunes here push any of the buttons for me, I do have some time for the man behind them. Anyone who can twist samples of Blue Peter legend John Knokes and beardy botanist David 'grapple me grape nuts' Bellamy talking about whales into the bizarrely captivating ditty that is Shanty Town (get it?) deserves credit.
Unfortunately, much of this comes across as short bursts of inspiration dragged way beyond their capable limits. This is Scruffy's third long player yet it's disjointed and lacks direction. It sounds like a first album collecting together early try-out ideas and demos. There's a stripped back, simple approach throughout. A bit like Mike (u-ziq/Kid Spatula) Paradinas only not quite as clever. Jus Jus featuring Roots Manuva (one of several guest vocalists) has a New York feel about it, whilst Spandex Man's looped samples inevitably prompt thoughts of Fat Boy Slim - but it isn't as effortless.
Aside from Shanty Town, the memorable peaks include the laid back bar room jazz of Get A Move On and Blackpool Roll. The latter being the only cut to really effectively blend all of Mr Scruff's distinctive traits into a cohesive whole. There's something very 1930s dancehall going on here what with the sax, organ and rimshots - humour, a good tune, structure and progression all in one. The titular Keep it Unreal is structurally fairly typical of DJ-turned-songwriter stuff. It manages to work on an ambient level and the funky beats and vibraphone grooves have a certain charm, but it doesn't stand up well under close scrutiny. 4/10