[Verb]Swish – Teach-Err, Teach-Err: The Learnt Lessons | Album Review

On a blaze of good musical intentions and eye-catching artwork, wordsmith extraordinaire Richard ‘[Verb]Swish’ Smartt Jnr releases his debut full length album, Teach-Err, Teach-Err: The Learnt Lessons.

The project gets off to an unapologetically gorgeous start with ‘Love Is Not a Rumour.’ Verbs flexes his considerable oratory muscles over ex-footballer-turned-musician Gavin Holligan’s delicious instrumentation, musing on the true meaning of love. On ‘Put’ Swish and co once again combine enticing arrangements with master wordplay on the curious hallmarks of contemporary living…

‘…Put it in a Marks and Spencer carrier bag if you bought it from Lidl / Put it through the eye of an RPM needle when you put your foot on and off the gas though everybody sees you at the crossroads of fronting and keeping it real / Put it on souped-up calibre fragile misfits using spoonfuls of sugar-coated materialism for wack music cook-up renamed lyricism…’

Verbs receives solid vocal support from the likes of Sister Jones, Taylor Lane, Kenny Temowo and personal favourites Mercy Adjepong – the future Mrs Smartt – and Abimaro.

However with the exception of the aforementioned ‘…Rumour’ and ‘Put’ ,‘Dreamt Your Dream’ and the early ’90s-style ambient soul of the splendid ‘Things’ll Get Harder,’ there’s not much outstanding going on melodically on Teach-Err… The more heavy duty rock production on ‘Nobody’ for example lacks the simple beauty of its original live acoustic incarnation. ‘All the Love’ and ‘Broken Bird’ miss the target altogether, not least because of the unappealing guest vocals on each.

Most of the album doesn’t much vary in tempo or texture. Perhaps this was all in order to keep the focus on Swish’s singular delivery. Adopting a cornucopia of personas and accents, there are times when the record sounds as if it has been taken over by a completely different poet. This is by no means a criticism; it keeps things interesting.

Besides, Swish isn’t being quirky or clever for vanity’s sake; there’s a lot of substance to complement his style. As he moves from personal reflections on faith (‘Cool of the Day,’ ‘I Got Poems’) to collective concerns about identity or society’s general ills (‘Put,’ ‘No More,’ ‘Nobody’ and again ‘I Got Poems’) he demonstrates his image-conjuring mastery.

A debut from one of London’s most inspired spoken-word artists is long overdue. Nevertheless as high quality as the musicianship and production on Teach-Err, Teach-Err… are it’s a pity that most of the instrumentals are not as compelling as Verb’s actual flow.