Basement Jaxx are back, bigger and badder and rougher and tougher…their new album, Kish Kash, features trademark party tunes, punky attitude and a selection of new, innovative, funky tracks designed to burn up your living-room, club night or cellar afterhours party. Just listening to this album makes me want to dance – but no, it would be too embarrassing. Maybe later. Oh, fuck it…
Exploding onto the scene in 1998 with parties, tunes, remixes and an odd taste in hats (since vindicated, ish – well, where do you think Timberlake got the idea, eh?), Felix and Simon appear to have dedicated their lives to funky little electronic sounds, deep bass grooves and big, big parties. This is unashamedly good time music, but with enough good time ideas to keep us going till the break a’dawn. If we so wish.
I remember seeing Felix on Jo Whiley’s ill-fated and short-lived Channel 4 talk show defending the DJ and deriding the idea that you needed actual instruments to make music, or that rock might be at all relevant, and I realised that here was the degree zero of the E generation – a musician that couldn’t give a fuck about rock tradition or indie music or being bothered that all he had in the back of his van was a record bag. The first homegrown electronic danceboy had arrived (no disrespect, but the Chemical Brothers and Massive Attack rose on the back of indie-dance and cunningly deployed ska, reggae and Britpop guest vocalists to broaden their appeal). So when Remedy opened with an acoustic guitar getting violently mugged by a thumping beat it was a statement of leftfield intent.
Three albums in, they appear to have lost no enthusiasm for tearing it up. The main problem (such as it is) with Kish Kash is that it doesn’t mark a progression particularly – just a continuum of headfuck dance music with grooves and ideas. Remedy, released in 1999, was such a quantum leap in electronic music we’re still reaping the benefits now – and they just continue producing top tunes. Which is not to say they’re dull, or complacent, or on a plateau, or running on the spot – ‘Kish Kash’, the tune featuring Siouxsie Sioux, takes the best of electroclash and puts it through the BJ mixer. Tune of the year, but I may have been a bit worse for wear the first time I heard it…Kish Kash is just difficult to be objective or critical about, such is the standard they’ve already set. If I was being finickity, I’d say I don’t like it as much as 2001’s Rooty just coz that album came out at a particular time, yadda yadda. And has a big gorilla on the front. But the differentials are a bit slight. The new one has yelpy, punky, silly tunes, kicks ass, shouts loud, break-dances enthusiastically, drinks all the beer, sounds big, wears fake fur and leather, dons sunglasses at night, spills the poppers, talks to your mates, snogs your girlboyfriend, laughs at your trainers, knocks the back of your head off and steals your drugs. Which is obviously a Good Thing.
They are musically all over the place, and their gloriously eclectic cut-up style creates manically varied music. For instance, the splicing of Selector’s ‘On My Radio’ on ‘Same Old Show’ with porn-style vocals and KRS-One works to incredible effect. The new album features the unique and odd vocal talents of Dizzee Rascal – and his yelps sound funky and vital in contrast to his ‘difficult’ album, Boy In The Corner, despite covering the same urban, crime-ridden, edgy ground. The Jaxx’ excitement must be infectious, or maybe going to Brixton from East London does that to people. Musically innovative they may be, but the greatest thing about the Jaxx is their party tunes: ‘Bingo Bango’; ‘Jump n’Shout’; ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ – happy, carnival, pumping tunes to get off your head to. ‘Right Here’s The Spot’ claims ‘if you don’t dance you can make your own way home’, a kind of lovedup ‘come and have a go’…If anything, the new album is more restrained than normal, and interested in exploring a wider range of dance possibilities (man).
Listen to them – coz they know where the party’s at and you’ll find out if you do that.