Unkle: War Stories

By Scott Kara

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Herald rating: * * *

The Unkle concept was dreamed up by producer and record label head James Lavelle. With DJ Shadow he created the 90s masterpiece Psyence Fiction, featuring Rabbit In Your Headlights (with Radiohead's Thom Yorke) and Lonely Soul (featuring the Verve's Richard Ashcroft).

It was a tall order to match that brilliance. Without Shadow, Unkle's second album Never, Never, Land lacked impact, but on the third outing, War Stories, Lavelle mostly gets it right.

It has the same uneasy and temperamental tone of old but this time he pairs his love of bludgeoning dance beats with more live instruments, including squally searing guitars from Josh Homme and Chris Goss from Queens of the Stone Age on early tracks Chemistry, Hold My Hand and the desert-boogie of Restless. The latter, with Homme on vocals, and the flare-up of Burn My Shadow - with Cult frontman Ian Astbury in his best voice for years - are two stunning tracks.

However, the problem is half the songs are courageous and dangerous - definitely worthy of the Victoria Cross for music - and the others are throwaway tunes that sound dated, like the too-cool-for-school swagger of Mayday, featuring Liela Moss from indie rockers Duke Spirit. Still, moments of brilliance are better than none at all.

Label: Surrender All/Rhythmethod
Verdict: Another hit and miss but when it hits it's worth it

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