Having started the label Crosstown Rebels and produced some of the best mix albums in recent memory the concept of an artist album from Damian Lazarus was an interesting one. Usually you would have an idea of what to expect from a DJ or an artist album by checking their own productions but in Lazarus' case, in BlackPlastic's knowledge at least, there were no tracks produced by him released prior to this album.
Anyone who has heard lead single 'Moment' will know exactly what to expect. And that's the unexpected... Because Smoke the Monster Out is a musical journey about as far from the dancefloor as anything Get Physical have released previously. Out not long after Bronnt Industries Kapital recent Hard For Justice it shows the label to be much more creative and less risk averse than BlackPlastic would have previously thought.
'Moment' is not a dance track so much as a brain seizure. With a piano intro and a melodic vocal, presumably Lazarus himself, it starts off like the delicate ramblings of a Spiritualized or Lou Reed track before descending into a dubby cacophony of snatched vocals and bass. The album's main guest vocalists, the Sweidsh twins from Taxi Taxi, repeat Lazarus' opening line over time-stretched versions of themselves. It sounds Lazarus not giving a damn about where he came from and, frankly, it's a breath of fresh air. It's inventive in a totally unexpected way. Acting as a counter-weight to 'Moment' is Lazarus' cover of Scott Walker's 'It's Raining Today', an epic ballad positioned one track away from the album's close as if to mirror the position of 'Moment', one track separated from the album's opening.
Some tracks are (a little) more straight up - 'Memory Box' is less good, but it's cockney-yob minimal is more what you would expect of this album. At the same time there are curiosities in different forms, with 'Diamond In The Dark' being one - a duet of computer synthesized vocals combined with Lazarus' own over a gentle backing. 'Neverending' is different again, a celebratory stomp of a dance pop record.
Smoke the Monster Out may occasionally backfire in its attempts to be different but on the whole it is a total success. Not since Joakim's equally bonkers Monsters & Silly Songs has an album captured so many ideas in one place whilst simultaneously confounding all ideas of what a dance album should consist of.
Smoke the Monster Out's greatest achievement is that it sounds cohesive despite taking a inconsistent approach. The moods and ideas are fractured but there is an overriding dub-drenched paranoia that weaves its way through the whole thing.