The Deep End

If you can make it through The Deep End from front to back without cracking a smile, you may well be dead inside. Though echoes of the King Blues—the politically conscious U.K. ska-folk-punkers who vocalist Itch fronted for eight years—are present, at heart this is a big, shiny, smart and uplifting pop hip-hop record. Forged in collaboration with über-producer John Feldmann (Story Of The Year, the Used), the collection is filled with undeniable euphoria, best captured in its towering choruses and assisted by the many guests who are only too happy to contribute to the excitement.

One of the most impressive things about The Deep End is that every track takes a stylistic left turn from that which preceded it, at no point repeating the same formula but managing to maintain a cohesive flow throughout. Itch’s articulate and engaging lyrics and his energized rapping style play a massive part in this. Whether he’s focusing on the personal or political, blending the two, or even goofing around you cannot deny the sincerity he brings.

The race to provide 2014’s definitive summer anthem may already be over with “Laugh” (featuring Matisyahu), which incites a massive "laugh-along" that is irresistible—although Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara helps make “Homeless Romantic” a close runner-up for the title. On the lighter side of things there’s also the soulful skank of “Another Man,” which sees Itch bickering with vocalist Megan Joy in a manner that is as amusing as it is hooky, and the shimmering chorus of opener “Life Is Poetry” takes so much pleasure in erupting out of nowhere off the back of a dirty Rage Against The Machine-esque riff. The record is not without its darker—albeit every bit as catchy—moments. The dubstep-tinged “Like I’m Drugs” (featuring Dani Artaud of Mr Downstairs) is far more brooding, the same applying to the agitated title track, while “Not My Revolution” (featuring BC Jean) and “Children Of The Revolution” are the most poignant tracks.

Having walked away from the King Blues at the peak of their popularity due to not wanting to see their achievements become diminished, it was already clear that Itch is a man of integrity. That he could have played it safe and made a record with far more in common with that band but chose instead to strike out in his own direction, embracing pop with both arms without compromising his style or beliefs only supports this. That he has made a great record should silence anyone who thinks otherwise.

Red Bull Records