Basement Jaxx : Kish Kash

Not a bad album, merely a just-good-enough one...

Before the great superclub crash of 2001, Felix Burton

and Simon Ratcliffe were the house duo even house

music haters could love. Mainly because they never made

straight house but fantastic ultra-pop belters like

‘Romeo’ and ‘Where’s Your head At’, full to bursting

with punk garage and calypso-funk and electro-ragga

and, just for good measure, donkey disco too. Hey, why

not? The Jaxx were always a reliably lusty, life-affirming sonic tonic.

Rumours of dance music’s demise have been exaggerated,

of course. But with club culture currently undergoing

a crisis of confidence, most of its biggest crossover

stars have lost some of their lustre and momentum. And

so it would seem with Basement Jaxx on their third

album, an oddly listless creature which tries to run

in several directions at once, but never quite gets

very far.

Not that it doesn’t make an effort. Even more than on

‘Remedy’ or ‘Rooty’, guest vocalists are here in

force. US soul siren Meshell Ndegeocello fronts one of

the stand-outs, ‘Right Here’s The Spot’, a sexadelic

bump’n’groove of button-pushing sauce-funk reminiscent

of Prince’s New Power Generation period. But

Ndegeocello also closes the album on a low point,

‘Feels Like Home’, a windy seven minutes of meandering

jazzy bluster.

Man of the moment Dizzee Rascal gets to bark over

the chunky electro and diced Eastern melodies of

‘Lucky Star’. It’s a bouncy little number, but less

compelling or adventurous than anything on ‘Boy In Da

Corner’. A more unlikely cameo is punk empress

Siouxsie & The Banshees, who applies her warrior-queen warble

to the kool eletroclash stomp of ’Kish Kash’.

Interesting, but hardly startling. Only the anonymous

female vocalist on ‘Hot’n’Cold’ deserves some sort of

prize for bringing warm, dreamy romanticism to an

arctic snowscape of brushed steel future-funk.

Not a bad haul, overall. But ’Kish Kash’ is still a

naggingly problematic record, with a void at its heart

that no amount of cool celebrity mates can quite

conceal. Felix and Simon may have moved on from

party-rocking belters, but they appear to have stalled

somewhere less interesting, more polished, more (oh

dear) mature. Gone is the sparkle and swagger of

‘Remedy’, with its mission to rescue British dance

music from po-faced monotony. Gone is the

spring-loaded pop wallop and ultra-vivid carnival

palette that made ‘Rooty’ such a blast.

And in their place? A sense of aimless drift and

forced jollity. An alarming surplus of old-skool ‘80s

soul-pop of the graceless, unreconstructed kind.

Experimental noises relegated to the margins like

contractual obligations. Not a bad album, merely a

just-good-enough one. Kish Kash? Bish bosh.

Stephen Dalton

Get 'Kish Kash' at the NME Shop

6 / 10

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