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Basement Jaxx - Scars

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Rating: * * *

Verdict: Fifth album is bogged down by guests and fails to get its groove on.

The jumped up ska madness of Saga, from Basement Jaxx' fifth album, is where the London duo of Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe once again hit up on the maniacal mood they created on their signature tune Where's Your Head At?.

While it's no party starter like that old song from 2001, its power is largely thanks to the sinewy soul voice of New York's Santogold.

However, what is also clear on Scars is that there are darker and more reflective moments than ever before. There's the lovely dreamy croon and keyboard tickles of Detroit multi-instrumentalist and producer Amp Fiddler on A Possibility. It's a blissful mid-album delight. And a surprise highlight is Day of the Sunflowers, featuring Yoko Ono, of all people, which is a sparkling, whacky marching song with Ono sounding like a little child running delightedly through, well, a field of sunflowers.

But then there are songs that annoy, only not in a catchy-as-hell way like Where's Your Head At? did. These new songs are instantly irritating, like the tinny squelch and bass squirts of Twerk, with its reprise of the lyrics to Hall & Oates' She's A Maniac an added irritation, followed closely by the Feelings Gone (featuring the wimpy-voiced pop upstart Sam Sparro), and the show tune-meets-bouncy house of What's A Girl Got To Do.

The making of the album was a tumultuous time apparently, with Buxton breaking up with his other half, and Ratcliffe's partner and newborn baby falling gravely ill at different stages. And indeed, sometimes Scars leaves you wondering where their heads were at.

While the guest spots show the respect these two still have in the music world, the cast of many is so varied that the album never settles into a steady groove and it dilutes the overall impact.

One of the best tunes - and only one of two with no guests involved - is the big, banging first single Raindrops, which has the sort of carefree abandon conjured up by a track like Romeo off 2001's excellent Rooty. But as an album, Scars is a long way from recapturing the passion and punch of that wonky dance music classic.

Scott Kara


- NZ Herald

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