Every now and then a record comes along that makes all the wee hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
If after three weeks, and multiple plays, it’s still having the same effect, then you know it’s something a bit fucking special.
Hector Bizerk’s latest release, The Second City of the Empire is one such record.
The prolific Glasgow hip hop duo has experienced a well-deserved rise in recognition of late, with previous release The Waltz of Modern Psychiatry up for the Scottish Album of the Year Award.
The band also supported The Libertines’ Pete Docherty on his Scottish tour dates last month, by all accounts proving to be the unexpected highlight of an otherwise somewhat disappointing show.
For The Second City of the Empire, the band’s fourth self-release in three years, rapper and frontman Louie and drummer/producer Audrey Tate are joined by an equally talented bunch of musicians to create, in their own words, “hip hop culture with a Scottish edge”.
Early standout ‘Everybody Laughed’ delivers a disturbing narrative of teen sexual experimentation gone tragically wrong.
Set in the context of the current technological landscape, social media’s insidious duplicity is brought to the fore as a snowballing bassline and breakneck vocal hurtle the track towards impending crisis.
If the Scottish Government had any sense they’d make this painfully relevant, cautionary tale a part of the Curriculum for Excellence in secondary schools immediately.
‘Empty Jackets’ is a scathing, if tongue in cheek, indictment of A&R and the industry’s “big three”; featuring a gorgeous calypso chorus vocal courtesy of Be Charlotte, and Louie putting on an amazing, ridiculous London accent, the track is powered by innovative experimental percussion.
In recent weeks I’ve found myself (mostly internally) reciting lyrics “shut the fuck up and have a word with your head-rush” like a modern day mantra.
Demonstrating depth of social conscience and a refusal to shy away from controversial subject matter, ‘The Tree That Never Grew’ is a genuine and brutally honest response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Lush acoustic guitar from the excellent RM Hubbert, and repeated tagline “no human is illegal” are looped around Tait’s omnipresent drums.
Vocally ensnaring the listener with a succession of stark home-truths, Louie’s vocal is both relentless and razor sharp, dripping with barely concealed disdain.
The Second City of the Empire is no-nonsense, clever and undeniably Scottish.
It’s funny, edgy and a just a bit fucked up; descriptors equally well-suited to the city from which it takes its name.
Akin to a good Glasgow night out, it makes you want to laugh, cry, smash something and dance like a fanny.
Hector Bizerk continue to prove that Scottish hip hop is far more than just a faddy novelty, and that the genre deserves recognition as a heavy-weight contender.
Scotland may well be “wrecked and it’s obvious” but on the upside our music scene is looking pretty damn good.
Words: Kat McNicol