Review: Blonde & Craig David – ‘Nothing Like This’

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Re-rewind, and the crowd say "1990s" (in a good way).

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If we were to re-rewind back as few as six months, we’d find Craig David as a longlost relic of garage’s prime; a pinnacle of a genre lost in time who’d sailed off into the Miami sunset through a haze of R&B mediocrity almost a decade prior. His apparent parting gifts were Rita Ora and Tinchy Stryder, who both appeared on his Greatest Hits lead cut ‘Where’s Your Love’ long before their own successful releases (which were, similarly, followed by paychecks from sessions with Simon Cowell and the Chuckle Brothers). His limelight was fleeting yet fruitful, putting Southampton on the map as a source of enchanting, very British dance music with a robust soulful varnish, and single-handedly making beanie hats a fashion statement. With the fame came the allure of South Beach, possibly named for the direction his musical output then took.

Yet, somewhere along the line in a significantly Disclosure-shaped hole, garage managed to grab onto a precarious ledge. Whether it was the celebrity commanded by the parodic pirate radio collective Kurupt FM, who invited him onto BBC Radio 1Xtra to sing ‘Fill Me In’ over ‘Where Are Ü Now,’ or merely the appetite for a slice of mild nostalgia in the music we devour alongside imitation Jägerbombs every weekend in dingy grottos nationwide, his opportunity arose and, revitalised, he grabbed Big Narstie and gave us the epiphany of what to do when the bassline drops.

Where David has the most to offer to a contemporary audience who are probably most familiar with his prime through Bo’ Selecta! is through this amalgamation of garage offerings and his perpetually silky vocals, and to say we’ve heard nothing like ‘Nothing Like This’ would be doing it a disservice, for it encapsulates the entire late 90s garage movement in one bundle. Bristol duo Blonde, who were decidedly more down the wobbly rabbit hole of so-called deep house with their recent top 10 hits, get their trademark moderately underwhelming drop in as Craig flies the obligatory flag of garage sensations, singing a chorus equally applicable to both the romantic context (two people in their own relationships discover each other and remain faithful until the old things naturally evaporate) and how good he thinks the song is.

To their credit, most of the rest is a luscious springboard of shimmering minimalism and 2-step groove for our boy Craig to croon like Y2K still looms over society. It’s frantic, it’s seductive, and it’s almost like he’s trying to duet with himself while moulding a boisterous crowd and simultaneously reworking his act with little acknowledgement of the melodies he’s paired with. Between palatable vocal acrobatics and gibberish verses about relationships and remaining under cover, ‘Nothing Like This’ will easily trick you into forgetting the late night transitions of the past decade. UK garage may not last once again, but Craig and his new friends are certainly here to hang around.

’Nothing Like This’ is out now via Parlophone.

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Official email person, rambly music writer, and former Records Editor at The Edge. Often found playing pop music too loud on Surge Radio.

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