If DJ Format were an employee of Electronic Arts he’d be against that wall quicker than a loose-knickered footballer’s wife. ‘Challenge Everything’? If EA really are the architects of dazzlingly complex computer games, as their advertisements imply, then DJ Format’s second full-length release is as taxing as an afternoon playing Sensible World Of Soccer, set to its easiest level of difficulty, on an Amiga, against a four-year-old cousin. The core mechanics of the game are already established (in Format’s case, on 2003’s Music For The Mature B-Boy); all that is tweaked are the minor, aesthetic details. Thus, here we have a new rapper – D-Sisive – waxing lyrical alongside regular Format cohort* Abdominal*. The music, meanwhile, is strictly old school, i.e. it’s been heard before, the T-shirt is worn thin, and we’ve all moved on. Thanks.
But wait – old-school nostalgia needn’t necessarily spell critical doom. Buried within happy-daze beats and Daisy Age samples lie cutting sarcastic quips. What’s more, they’re delivered with the barbed hooks of the most brutal fishermen, snagging deep in your bottom lip. ‘Participation Prerequisite’ is the most obvious example of Format and co defending their old-school stance. Their point – why must one progress to succeed, when perfection of what you already have is infinitely preferable and more satisfying? – is entirely valid. Their songs, whilst breaking no stylistic boundaries, are consistently upbeat and enjoyable.
‘Separated At Birth’ bounces with the confidence of prime NER*D, whilst lead single ‘3 Feet Deep’ will soundtrack many a summer party (and probably a sequence or two on Soccer AM). Picture the scene: late afternoon sun, barbecue on the go, DJ Format on the boombox. Pretty sweet, eh? The meandering instrumentals are skippable, but Abdominal and D-Sisive combine well whenever they’re instructed to, and guests Chali 2na and Akil only add to the party rather than stealing any thunder.
So, why attempt to challenge everything when everything you have is, for what it is, faultless? If You Can’t Join ‘Em… Beat ‘Em is a perfectly timed release that’ll have that sun feeling hotter and those sausages tasting juicier. Providing the notorious English summer delivers its own core mechanics, the aesthetic elements are all sewn up. If it doesn’t, fuck it – you’re welcome around mine for a Sensible Soccer tournament. I choose Inter Milan. You get the Kaiser Chiefs. Let’s go…
6Mike Diver's Score