If H&T never surprises, it does at least sometimes satisfy, albeit in a basic way.
Chris Power 2009
Before they rebranded themselves the Drumattic Twins, Nick Slater and Kevin Lancaster were two-thirds of Shades of Rhythm, one of the more successful pop-rave acts of the early 90s. While their present incarnation might be a less chart-minded proposition, traces of the pair’s knack for a catchy melody can be discerned throughout this competent but unexceptional album.
It’s been seven years since Drumattical, the first Drumattic Twins album, but the Twins’ breakbeat template remains more or less the same. The breaks scene has been one of the more moribund dance music genres of the past decade, and there’s nothing on Hammer & Tongs to suggest the situation is going to change any time soon.
The string sample, flanged bass stabs, vocal snippets and whooshing synths of opening track Don’t Be So Drumattic, for example, are so familiar as to be almost parody.
If Hammer & Tongs never surprises, it does at least sometimes satisfy, albeit in a basic way. Heartbreaker is a pleasant bit of tunefulness, the expansiveness of its synth pads and the piano-led breakdown recalling Slater and Lancaster’s early-1990s work. In fact, by far the most successful passages of Hammer & Tongs are those which look back to the melodic rush purveyed by Shades of Rhythm tracks such as Sweet Sensation and The Sound of Eden.
Pick Me Up Baby, for example, tosses a catchy vocal hook above an uplifting, rising bassline and bleepy synths, while Soul Flower ropes in some classic hardcore piano chords that impart a welcome sense of momentum to an album that can often seem to be going through the motions.
Even those tracks that benefit from some song craft, however, tend to be let down by uninspired beats. Fly Young Canaboids might be a typical breakbeat roller (so typical, in fact, even a siren can’t save it) but at least its rhythm track – featuring live drums – is possessed of a little bite. And that, ultimately, is what much of Hammer & Tongs is missing. It’s as slick as you would expect from producers with twenty years’ experience behind them, but lacks heart.