October 24, 2003
Basement Jaxx : Kish Kash
Not a bad album, merely a just-good-enough one...
6 / 10
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
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
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.
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