Basement Jaxx
Kish Kash
Astralwerks
2003
B-



dance is dead!, proclaim the British broadsheet press. No it isn’t!, they say again, three months later, It’s just gone underground again!. Whatever, Basement Jaxx are here to give dance a kick up the arse, or something. I’m not entirely sure it needs it; rather than falling into some kind of terminal decline, dance music’s stock has actually adjusted to a more stable and balanced level after years of artificially inflated economic boom in the mid-90s. In a couple of years everyone’ll be bored of guitars again and we’ll be back to bemoaning rock’s death yet again. That’s what capitalism does to you, boom and bust, boom and bust. I hear house prices in Ibiza are soaring now the kids have decided to get wasted in Faliraki instead.

Kish Kash suffers from a surfeit of ideas and sounds; quite simply there is too much going on here. Basement Jaxx albums have always been hit and miss affairs, loaded with great singles and messily-realised bad ideas, and, while Kish Kash is definitely the most consistent thing they’ve done for the opening ten tracks, it begins to drift noticeably after this point as Felix and Simon once again find themselves helplessly giving in to the impetuous impulse to try and impress at every turn. Hence Kish Kash, like Rooty and Remedy before it, has neither the space and flow of a cohesively great album or the intensity of focus and energy that characterises a classic singles collection (think Singles Going Steady). It’s not that each track does a separate thing as the Jaxx surf their way through funk, punk, northern soul, disco, hip hop, bhangra, stomping rhythm ’n’ blues, electro pulse and the remains of acid house; it’s that each track does several different things, spinning your head round to the point of migraine. Any album featuring guest vocals from an ex-member of *N-Sync, Siouxsie Sioue, Dizzee Rascal, Lisa Kekaula, Cotlyn Jackson and Meshell Ndegeocello has a serious personality disorder which needs resolving. You could say Kish Kash is schizophrenically eclectic. It’d be an understatement.

So “Good Luck” is a wrathful stomp, starting, of course, with the same kind of sound as Remedy did back in the day – the sound of music being sucked down a phat plughole. And then Lisa Kekaula wails over an enormous, string-laden groove. And boy, does she sound pissed off. Next comes Meshell, being all sexy over a ludicrously kinetic electro-hop funk on “Right Here’s The Spot”; but you ain’t heard nuffin’ yet, because round the corner comes lead single “Lucky Star”, which I was kind of hoping would be a Madonna cover, but which is actually the sound of Dizzee Rascal (hollering “look up! look out!” in a slightly more deranged way than he hollers “fix up! look sharp!” on his own last single) undergoing electro-shock therapy and having some very weird dreams while the volts jolt through his cranium; dreams that involve Bengal tigers and enormous drums and Bollywood strings arranged by pyromaniac 9-year-old with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

As starts go, it’s not bad.

“Supersonic” continues the groove like a party in the next train carriage along from the one you're in (I suspect people frugging frantically to the Jaxx may be the real cause of London Underground’s two derailments over the weekend), a wicked rhythm made all the more compelling by its sonic distance. JC Chasez steps up for “Plug It In” and proves that Justin wasn’t the only cool one in *N Sync. Before you know it you’re at the dyslexically eponymous track 10, in which Siouxsie Sioux bemoans the cultural logic of late capitalism over the top of a stunningly stupid handclaps+squelch+noise+drums meta-groove like she was Bill Hicks suddenly come over all retarded and gone down the disco.

And then…

Then “Tonight” is a weak rehash of “Rendez-Vous”, “Hot & Cold” is a pleasant enough little number but entirely unremarkable, and “Feels Like Home” is an aimless stab at strung-out profundity. Dance is dead! Oh, bugger off, why don’t you.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2003-10-21
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