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Album Review

by Basement Jaxx

XL Recordings

Review Date
17th November 2009
Reviewed by
Lukas Clark-Memler

Basement Jaxx, the cross-genre-fusing South Londoners, have been making bona fide party music since the beginning of the millennium. Yet as 2009 comes to an end, and we bid adieu to this decade, it seems rather probable that in turn we are also farewelling Basement Jaxx from the dance and techno scene. In 1999 with Remedy, 2001 with Rooty, and then followed up by the titanic success of Kish Kash, which won the duo a Grammy and is still considered one of the best modern electronica albums ever, Basement Jaxx have produced hit after ubiquitous hit, and infected the world with their eclectic buzz. So it’s impossible to deny the fact that these boys know how to party. Yet on Scars, their 5th musical endeavour, they are making music for a party that is well and truly over. This time around, the music is best suited for the post-party stage. Everyone has gone home; your house resembles the aftermath of an earthquake; the alcohol has worn off and as you frantically clean up dried stomach waste from your white suede sofa, you hear a collection of songs that truly encapsulate your frenzied, sick and slightly delirious mood. Welcome to Scars – messy and disarrayed, yet without question party, or rather, post-party music.

Basement Jaxx appear to be well past their prime, though this comes as no revelation. They seem to have been making their way to this point for a while. After the underwhelming Crazy Itch Radio and then the band’s three-year lull, where no new material was recorded, the general public were becoming slightly skeptical at the longevity of the once dominant party machine. Scars was either going to resurrect the duo, and vault them back to their place of worship, or it would confirm many predictions that Basement Jaxx no longer possesses that x-factor, and is merely a shadow of its once holy self. In short, the band has run out of steam, and is the farthest away they have ever been from the apex of their successful career.

Once a dynamic duo eager to break free from the archetypes of the dance genre in favour of creating something distinct and exciting; the duo has opted for the generic and predictable. The overall lack of variety makes for a consistent albeit dull album, which leaves a bland after-taste in the listener’s aural palette. This tastelessness is exacerbated by tracks that segue and dissolve into each other, repeating former themes until they are indistinguishable and monotonous.

Though you’ve got to give the boys some credit for assembling one of the most diverse group of collaborators imaginable. Yet what can we expect from a duo whose limitless energy and hedonistic abandon is a form of catharsis in itself. Electronica poster-girl Santigold, radio-favourite Sam Sparro and the one-and-only Yoko Ono, all feature on Scars. But these guest stars make it impossible for Basement Jaxx to stamp their iconic club-meets-house trademark on the songs. The duo step back, and allow the “featurers” to do all the work. Are the boys really that lazy? Or perhaps they are timid and uncertain regarding their precarious position in the current music scene.

So as we near the end of the decade, and reminisce about the definitive musical moments, we should fondly remember Basement Jaxx as they were in their prime – and not dwell on the inadequacy of their latest release. We should recognise the past successes of the duo - and not feel totally dissatisfied with Scars. But all good parties come to an end, no matter how long you attempt to delay and postpone the inevitable. Scars represents the end of an era - after a decade of partying, its time for the boys to take a break.

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