Benin City are not a brand new entity: the London trio released an album, Fires in the Park, in 2013. But Last Night, their second full-length work, feels more like a reboot than a follow-up. This time, vocalist Joshua Idehen and multi-instrumentalist Tom Leaper are joined by a second vocalist, Shanaz Dorsett, taking the place of drummer Theo Buckingham. The production is bigger and bolder, with pulsing rave synths on Final Form signalling their ruckus-bringing intentions from the outset.
The album was conceived in response to the slow death of London’s club scene, as evidenced by the closure in recent years of such cherished haunts as Plastic People and Passing Clouds. “Those places, and the stories they held, are gone for good as London becomes pricier and ever more grey,” Idehen has said. If Last Night doesn’t exactly feel like an elegy, it has much to do with Idehen’s versatility as a vocalist (he also performs as a slam poet) and the restless energy he channels on Take Me There, the bug-eyed opener, and Bus, tracking one far-from-sober journey home on the N38.
Even as Idehen rages against gentrification on All Smoke, No Fire – “Your croissants is in my caff bro,” he spits over menacing trap beats – the trio sound energised rather than deflated by their central theme. Benin City come across as the perfect companions for a boisterous, richly textured night out, even if, in London at least, such nights are in danger of becoming a thing of the past.