There's still a sense of surrealism in Friendly Bacteria, albeit offset with Denis Jones's vocals. Jones's aloof performance on the fluid and free-flowing "Render Me" is decent, as are the more considered drums and instrumental work that frames it, but it's not until his third contribution, "Thought To The Meaning," that we get something that really works. This is mainly because, as is Scruff's aim, the arrangement here is more grown up, with light-fingered keys, rigid bass notes and floating percussive patterns all tumbling together in sweet, tripped-out harmony rather than tussling like drunken teenagers.
Following that early high point, the rasping, sawtooth bass of the title track sounds lazy and dated. The Afro-stomp of "Come Find Me" wouldn't sound out of place on Eglo, and both "What" and "Where Am I" are like polished-up and digitalised versions of Scruff's more irreverent and idiosyncratic grooves. The remaining vocal collabs—first with Robert Owens then, for a fourth time, Denis Jones—don't quite work: there's something so inherently off-kilter about Scruff's kaleidoscopic production that it just doesn't jell with the sound of a human voice being all serious. Here's hoping that Friendly Bacteria is just a midlife crisis, then, and that come his next full-length, Mr. Scruff gets back to his frisky and flirtatious side. That's what always has, and always will, set him apart.