I may be six years short of my 40th birthday, but I think I’m having a mid-life crisis. I have a confession to make: my name’s Phil and I’m a rap fan. Kind of. To be honest, I don’t really understand all that American stuff. To me, a bitch is a female dog, a ‘ho’ will always be a garden implement, and ‘gangsta’ just looks like a spelling mistake, but the fact remains that since I turned 34 this summer, I’ve become an avid fan of ‘Floors and Walls’.

They might sound like a Mr Muscle cleaning product, but Floors and Walls are actually a local Brighton band who’ve been described as a cross between ‘The Streets’ and ‘Rage Against The Machine’. It’s basically hip-hop with guitars. Or MC-ing and rock. If that sounds like a combination to have you reaching for the earplugs, then stop right there, because much like a marmite and honey sandwich, this is an odd mixture which works.

I first came across them in September as part of ‘Brighton Live’ week, during which more than two hundred local bands played free gigs around the city to poor people like me who wouldn't normally pay to go and see them. With nothing better to do on a Thursday night, I found myself in the Joogleberry Playhouse, and having sat through an all-girl trio named Mascara, who list among their influences 'each other' and 'chocolate', I was introduced to the acoustic hip-hop of Floors and Walls. If you think you’ve seen it all on the Brighton music scene, I’m telling you now: you haven’t lived until you’ve heard someone rapping to a classical guitar.

They may not have been able to fully showcase their rock credentials in an unplugged set at the Joogleberry, but it did highlight just what a stunning voice lead singer Alex Adams has, and the band possessed more than enough catchy tunes and inventive lyrics for me to head straight onto the HMV website the next morning to order their album.

Floors and Walls are signed to local record label South Coast Sounds, and their debut album ‘What Can We Do Today’ came out in June. I’m going to claim a Kemp Town connection here, because the video for their second single, ‘The Stand’, was filmed at the multi-storey car park down at the marina. It’s a miracle I didn’t run them over on my way home from Asda.

A week later, the CD arrived in the post, and my new status as a 34-year-old rap fan was confirmed. The album is a high energy collection of riffs you won’t be able to get out of your head, lyrics that will make you smile, and raps you’ll want to sing along to when your girlfriend’s out of the house. It’s an infectious blend of pop, rock, funk and hip-hop, and I have to say I love it.

So having jumped around my living room like a 15-year-old for a few weeks (my girlfriend’s been out quite a lot), I headed down to Hector’s House in November for the full-blown Floors and Walls experience. The band were playing a free gig to mark the release of their third single ‘What To Do’, which is currently available on iTunes, and I was naturally keen to prove that just because you're over thirty doesn't mean you can't get down and party with the kids.

As it turned out, there were three bands performing that night, of which Floors & Walls were the most sensibly named. First up were ‘The Deal Was For The Diamond’, an excellent four-piece instrumental band. They were followed by ‘The Chedington Incident’, which sounds like a cheese spillage at a theme park. My girlfriend liked them a lot, because as she put it, "at least they had some words and a tune", which I think is a bit harsh on the Diamond geezers. They weren't bad, but after the soaring prog-rock reverb of TDWFTD (even as an acronym their name’s longer than Blur or Oasis), I couldn't get excited about the Cheds, and would have been happy if the evening had passed without Incident.

Having sat down through most of Chedington's world of adventures, I soon leapt to my feet, however, for the headline act of the night: Floors and Walls. Forcing my girlfriend to join me near the stage, we attempted to fit in with the social etiquette of today's youth, which basically involves shoving your way through and barging anyone out of the way, preferably whilst spilling a drink over them. I'm sure it wasn't like that in my day. Possibly because I hung out at the library.

It was all worth it though. Floors and Walls were excellent, although I’m not sure their music was helped by my caterwauling three feet from the stage as I tried to rap along with the kids. But I jumped around as best I could, trying not to look like I was 15 years older than everyone else, before getting slightly scared by the mosh pit in the final song and retreating to a safe distance.

When it was all over, I produced my copy of their album, handed it to my girlfriend, and asked her to fetch me some autographs, using the excuse that she looks younger than I do (she doesn’t have a bald spot for a start) and was less likely to be arrested for harassing young people in a public place. She duly climbed onto the stage, fluttered her eyelashes at the lead singer, and came back triumphantly holding a CD cover bearing the words "To Phil, Alex Adams". It's just a shame my pen wouldn't work. It's not so much signed as engraved. But as a 34-year-old rap fan in the throes of a mid-life crisis, I’ll treasure it forever.

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Published in The Kemptown Rag on 23rd November 2007

Flaws and Caterwauls
by Phil Gardner
   Phil Gardner 2007