Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Plan B – Ill Manors

Manors! There is no-one like B… etc.


Michaela Drapes: There’s a certain Les Miserables meets the Sex Pistols meets The Streets meets, yes, The Wall thing going on here that’s kind of undeniable. So some of the lyrics are a bit hackneyed and overdone in places, but the overall effect just works somehow, thanks to the big booming fuck the world production (those sawing strings and perfectly-placed breakbeat!) and Plan B’s malicious, snotty puns.

Brad Shoup: Scene-setting a la “No Place Like London,” with only a bit of irony added. (The second-verse sideways glance at Kaiser Chiefs’ “I Predict a Riot” could certainly change the tone, if you let it.) Wholesale appropriation of “Alles Neu” aside, the effect is more Peter and the Test Tube Babies than Peter Fox. It may seem like I don’t care for it, but “Ill Manors” does boast that killer second verse, and the arresting Shostakovichian string slash nearly sells me on Mr. Drew’s suddenly-claimed spokesman status. It’s not Sham, but I can always use something similar.

Iain Mew: Over a string loop similar to  Brown Eyed Girls’ “Sixth Sense” and some clod-hopping drum’n’bass, Plan B goes back to rap mode for some class warfare satire about the real and perceived state of Britain today. He covers a lot of ground and anyone who has been here for the last few years will get a certain buzz of recognition with each of the references: hugging hoodies, dubious etymologies for the word ‘chav’, shanks, looting and Luton“broken Britain”. Oh, and two Kaiser Chiefs songs, hung around the lines “What did that chief say?/Something about the Kaisers”, which is even worse than the pun of the song title. That starts to illustrate the song’s problems. Its range is at the expense of specificity beyond the buzzwords and almost nothing is handled anything other than clumsily, lyrically and musically. The moment the song builds to a shout of “You can’t put us all in prison!” is the only time that the anger boils over into something that suggests it could have done a lot more.

Alfred Soto: Apparently no engineer noticed how disgracefully the percussion was mixed around, between, and in front of the vocal — “there’s a charge for congestion” indeed. Also, I can’t understand the ire aimed at “rich kids” (is that what the “oi!” is for?). Plan B will be a rich kid soon enough. So he hopes.

Katherine St Asaph: Though this works slightly less well as a song than a rebuttal to last year’s “where are all the protest songs?” caviling (if you’re actually doing this, probably want to skip past the “concrete jungle” line), a lot can be done with the right sample: here, one that at least twenty Brit School kids wish they removed from the market.

Zach Lyon: This swipes the beat from “Alles Neu” by Peter Fox, which was unimpeachable — a solid [9], for sure — largely because Fox’s intensity and momentum matched those strings and drums perfectly, and his hardcore posturing is much less groansome than this little Brit’s tired imitation of every other white Brit rapper burbling about the nations’ angry youth. Listen to that instead. 

13 Responses to “Plan B – Ill Manors”

  1. Thanks for placing the sample, Zach! I didn’t have any luck tracking it down.

  2. Oh, those strings are Shostakovich’s Leningrad! Gah, I’m losing my edge, etc.

  3. (Thx, too, Brad. I’m a bit spaced out today.)


  5. The screencap hints at another of its ancestors :)

  6. I might be (probably am) being a bit stupid, but I can’t think of any mainstream British rapper trying ‘political’ recently to any further extent than those on the utterly dreadful Barlow-instigated ‘Teardrop’ charity record, which only made me think that none of those involved had anything to say for themselves but hackneyed platitudes and bizarre metaphors delivered with seriousface, so Plan B speaking like someone who’s actually given things a little thought is incredibly refreshing. The Kaiser Chiefs references are more than a little cackhanded and outdated, but for all the song’s imperfections, and while it probably won’t change the world (that’s TBC), it’s definitely a Good Thing.

  7. Other unorganised thoughts:

    This is from Plan B’s upcoming movie of the same name, so I’m not sure whether it’s primarily supposed to be taken in that context.
    Re: “Its range is at the expense of specificity beyond the buzzwords and almost nothing is handled anything other than clumsily, lyrically and musically” – I think that’s a success rather than a flaw, it’s supposed to be frantic and angry at the world; a stream of conscious diatribe rather than a considered essay or whatever.
    And “Plan B will be a rich kid soon enough. So he hopes.” I reckon Strickland Banks might have already made him quite a bit of money, but I don’t think that should have much bearing on how the song is taken, nor his right to make it (if that’s what you were inferring). (You probably weren’t.)
    I could probably think of more but that’s probably enough.

  8. I tried to put bullet points in that last comment but never mind.

  9. I like Scott’s thoughts on this. Since I’m not familiar with Plan B, I gave his sloganeering the benefit of the doubt, movie production and all. Tom Morello probably wouldn’t get the same generosity. But what is a movement without some easy-to-access slogans?

  10. Full disclosure, my impression of white boy Brit rap is largely painted by Scroobius Pip. And it just feels like I’ve heard this song a billion times, possibly on the Jukebox, but maybe my mind is inflating it.

  11. Second on Alles Neu being amazing. Video, too.

  12. Haha, I forgot about Scroobius Pip. I suppose he does try ‘political’, and he’s definitely often pretty overbearing and overly-righteous with it. I wouldn’t really view him as any kind of standard bearer for British rap though, white or otherwise; I’ve always been under the impression he associates himself with a more spoken word type scene, though I could be wrong.

    Funnily enough Dorian Lynskey, who’s much better qualified to talk about this kind of stuff, has just done a thing about this for the Guardian. (It’s good.)

  13. Oh, those strings are Shostakovich’s Leningrad!

    Another city under siege, right?

    I’m seriously impressed by this, couldn’t disagree more that it’s about buzzwords without specificity – Plan B crams a huge amount of references to hot button political topics in and does a great, dexterous jobs of linking them up with a very knowing eye on how the media lens distorts perception of them. It’s so much more than sloganeering – it’s smart and incisive stuff that uses buzz phrases like “broken Britain” and excavates them. Really necessary AND good.

    I mean, there’s a lot of stuff you might not get unless you have a passing familiarity with British politics and society, that’s not a reason to dismiss it though.