Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Souwf London in da house

It's not something that's talked about much, but my current 'hood of South London has been a veritable hotbed of house music over these past few years. And two of our finest specimens - Basement Jaxx and Groove Armada* - have released albums in the last year. So I thought I'd run the rule over both of them to see if they've still got 'it'.

Basement Jaxx - Crazy Itch Radio

Expectations were high for the Brixton's duo's first long-player since 2003's Kish Kash, but I found Crazy Itch Radio a big disappointment. It starts with the overly poppy Hush Boy (which is a bit like Oh My Gosh only not as good) partially recovers with Take Me Back To Your House (I love the banjo!), but then limps and splutters (and only occasionally dazzles) all the way to the end. It's not a complete write-off - On The Train has a certain bluesey charm, Smoke Bubbles isn't a bad paean to the decidedly mixed blessings of 'the holy herb', and Lights Go Down is 5 minutes of beautiful chill-out beats with a great string-based melody. The rest is very hyper, but very average. There's too much bland R'n'B for a start. And ultimately, the unoriginal gimmick of giving the album continuity by making it sound like a radio show is no substitute for the lack of great Basement Jaxx dance songs in the vein of Where's Your Head At?, Bingo Bango, Good Luck, and Jump'n'Shout. I'm still going to a Basement Jaxx gig later this month - because I'm fairly confident that a lot of this will sound better live. Plus, another thing about dance music is that some of these songs could scrub up better on the remixes, when other DJs get their hands on them.


Groove Armada - Soundboy Rock

Like the Jaxx, Groove Armada like to mix it up. But they strike a more consistently good note on this album - a note which is somewhere between the blissed-out 'Balearic' beats best characterised by the classic At the River, and the more guitar-heavy sound they practiced on much of the Lovebox album. This one veers between hip-hop, house, and dub - and with generally successful results. I particularly liked the kinetic rhythms of Get Down, the reverberating beat of Lightsonic (which got inside my head for a good while and wouldn't leave, even when I asked it nicely), as well as the deep dub of the title track. On the downside, the single Song for Mutya seems a bit lightweight compared to the Armada's best 7"s of the past (like Superstylin', Easy, and Chicago), and there are also couple of ballads that could have been left for the B sides. Not their best album then, but certainly not bad.


*The Armada are not actually from South London originally, so I hear... but they've been around so much that they might as well be!


Joe the Troll said...

That banjo IS cool. It brought something interesting to something that otherwise wouldn't be my cup of tea.

O' Tim said...

Again with the damn full circle! To wit: A friend tried to turn me on to house music back in high school (I think he was sweet on me), and I ran screaming after a few brave attempts in late-night Chicago. My more experimental and counter-intuitive ventures back then were punk-oriented.

So now I browse your samples, Cheezy, and while I'm pretty much comfortable in the same camp with Joe, I must say that in my old age eclecticism, I could take a cuppa some of this tea now and then.

Cheezy said...

Joe: There's something about a banjo, for sure. It can give a rhythm some real 'tension'... and that's even before visualising the 'duellin' kid in Deliverance.

O'Tim: Glad you found it interesting. And I'll post something soon that's a bit better than those too... (I hate to say it but the best CDs from both of those acts are... yes!... the Greatest Hits ones).

Natsthename said...

I can't say I like anything "house," but I will give it a listen, just to try new things! That's what this is all about!