Andy Carthy’s fifth album as Mr. Scruff, Friendly Bacteria, is also his first since Bonus Bait came out in 2009. Carthy has stated a desire to strip things down and get “back to basics”, and Friendly Bacteria makes good on that promise. Chunky beats, quirky arrangements, and jazzy double bass and keyboards are still the hallmarks of the Mr. Scruff sound. Carthy keeps things eclectic, too, with flourishes of flamenco (standout “Feel Free”), R&B (“He Don’t”), and electro-funk (the title track and “Where Am I”). The nondescript mumblings of British neo-folkie Denis Jones feature on four mostly lackluster tracks, but Vanessa Freeman enhances the sultry, soulful “Come Find Me”. All in all Friendly Bacteria is agreeably left-of-center, but hardly outstanding.
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