Bliss, Eso and Izm are classy ringleaders and provide plenty of entertainment under the big top of Circus In The Sky

Bliss N Eso are quickly outgrowing Australian hip hop. On their fifth album, the band has embraced expansive production, rock beats, uplifting choruses and popular samples. Circus in the Sky aims for the stars.

The unlikely voice of Charlie Chaplin and his speech from 1940 film The Great Dictator starts proceedings in rousing fashion. Daniel Merriweather sings on the soulful ‘Can’t Get Rid of This Feeling’ and ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ takes a funky ‘70s rock riff as a foundation for some down-to-earth rhyming about the comfort of familiarity. Both are instantly likeable and it’s no wonder the latter track gave the boys their highest chart debut.

B’N’E are still capable of the odd clunky couplet and lyrical cliché – hear Eso on ‘Animal Kingdom’ for example: “I set the kitchen ablaze / And take to the stage like Ricky Gervais … Tell it like it is in a world gone mad / I paint the town red like my girl on rag”. But these lazy slips are occasional and can be forgiven considering the effort that has gone into the album as a whole. Getting signoff on the Chaplin sample was far from easy as, presumably, was coaxing NYC rap god Nas into contributing. His verse on ‘I Am Somebody’ is as good as any he has committed to record in the last few years. Circus… is humourous too – Australian heavyweights 360, Pez, Seth Sentry and Drapht sound like they’re having a blast together on record for the first time on ‘Reservoir Dogs’ while DJ Izm shows what he can do with some funnies from ‘Loosest Aussie’ Alex Williamson.

3.5/5 stars

BY DAVID WILD

Circus In The Sky is out now through Illusive.

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