I've a feeling this was the last CD I bought before I left England in 2011; and so, landing in Texas with only those worldly possessions which could be stuffed into a single suitcase and a music collection chiselled down to about ten discs, this one received a fair old hammering for the duration of my first six months in San Antonio, at least until I was able to ship the great bulk of my shit over in February 2012. Consequently it has a particular place in my affections and carries certain strong associations. During my most recent return visit to the old country, I came close to big manly tears of nostalgia whilst eating proper sausage, egg, chips and beans in a Bermondsey cafe full of bricklayers and road sweepers with the radio tuned to some station playing roughly the same autotuned hybrid of grime and R&B as is heard on Catch 22. I could be missing something but this kind of thing now sounds very, very English to me - actually very, very London to further narrow it down. Possibly there are a million US stations playing variations on Tinchy Stryder, but I can't be arsed to sift through the great wealth of those playing country, western, country and western, western and country, and that We Are Young shite by Fun - which is apparently the name of the band, the really shit and annoying band.
Tinchy Stryder came up through grime as part of Roll Deep, and this album was apparently informed by a desire to break through into the mainstream, which is what it did, and does, to spectacular effect, mashing together all those weird pingy grime beats with big screen stadium trance techno, producing what may potentially be the most weirdly uplifting hybrid ever made. The grime element is true to its roots, raised on the sound of arcade games rather than Beatles albums and yielding sounds resembling nothing heard in nature, and not even heard that much in electronic music prior to 2009 - grinding synths burping away as the tonal equivalent to the sort of alien flavours only found in kid's sweets, the sort of thing Junior always seems to want from the ice-cream place when we stop by - bright dayglo turquoise and purporting to taste like cotton candy soda, whatever the hell that is. Add to this the trippy sequencers, glo-sticks, and Tinchy's confident but never puffed up delivery, and it's air-punching, head nodding, euphoric stuff which doesn't really sound like anything else I've heard.
Catch 22 is one of the most bizarrely artificial things I've encountered in terms of what has gone into the recipe, but it feels paradoxically more human, organic and emotionally potent than almost any other rap record I can think of. Of course, the heavy trance techno element probably disqualifies it as rap for those purists insisting that UK rap is only UK rap if it's been directly sanctioned and approved by Rodney P, but fuck 'em. When stuffing a handful of essential CDs into a bag and abruptly moving to another country, this one was a great choice.