This review can also be found at The Yorker, here.
In terms of image, at least, I like Labrinth. he's adorkable. His most salient single, 'Earthquake' is something that everyone's going to remember, and Electronic Earth rides that out in a few ways; in songs with similar beats, in its choice in guest rappers, and just by having 'Earthquake' show up repeatedly.
Staring track 'Climb on Board' surprised me by being above and beyond my expectations garnered from 'Earthquake'. It demonstrates that Labrinth has some decent vocal ideas; a sweet balance between traditional voice harmonies and piano riffs with light touches of electronic pitch warbling and a club synth that's not too obnoxious. It's a strong starter, but it's followed with 'Last Time' which unfortunately doesn't balance itself at all. The synth and voice distort come on way too strong, and although it doesn't necessarily place the track firmly in the 'bad' category, it feels generic.
'Express Yourself' is wonderfully charming - I have a soft spot for songs that utilise unexpected samples. At first blush it seems like too much of a straightforward lift of the original track, but let it get to the chorus, and it blossoms into a punchy and cheery variation, retaining the brass. Venture even further and it switches into a new rhythm - pleasantly summery in nature. I only wish it were longer.
Skip over 'Beneath Your Beautiful' - it's that painfully generic ballad song where the artist gets to demonstrate their vocal range a little better, and the chorus ends with "...tonight.". It drops a drumline after the first verse, but it couldn't save me from dry-heaving.
'Sundown' sticks in my mind for its low, slightly sludgy bass, but then the lyrics are eye-rolling. She's a nymphomaniac! I get to have sex with her every day constantly! Feel jealous! Then again, if I can enjoy Tyler the Creator's 'She' for its beat despite its unsettling subject matter, then I can definitely give this one a pass, and you definitely can too.
Following the general club vibe of the rest of the album, I wasn't expecting 'T.O.P.'s lead in to sound like a track from a Dragon Quest game. It doesn't maintain it through the song, but it's a nice touch.
'Earthquake' runs three versions on this album. The first version is the Radio Edit, and you've most likely heard it already. Tinie Tempah impresses me in how he manages to have none of his lines rhyme. The second version, set towards the end has additional guest verses from Kano, Wretch 32 and Busta Rhymes. It's nice to see Kano show up again and Busta's bars are wonderfully aggressive and way more deserving of the whole "just smash something" hook.
The last version of 'Earthquake', a remix by Noisia and the final track on the album and and arguably the most accurate to the track title. The remix is more garage than dubstep, which some might find a little disappointing, but it definitely stands on its own. If only it had the Busta Rhymes verses to go with it.
I'm not the authority on what makes a good début album, but I think Labrinth has made some smart decisions here. While yes, Electronic Earth is extending the mileage out of a song that could easily be argued as overplayed, it manages to offer songs you'll return to after you're done throwing bombs on it.