Basement Jaxx, ‘Kish Kash’ (Astralwerks)
Maybe they could change their names to the Jaxxes. With half-assed rock bands now enjoying all the hype once reserved for half-assed DJ acts, it’s gotta be a confounding time for dance artists-even Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe, whose last album, 2001’s Rooty, remains the grooviest club record of our infant century. A blitz of new-wave funk and horny mid-tempo house, Rooty‘s singular purpose was to set shit off at any party with a pulse and keep it going until the floor collapsed.Kish Kash can be just as rowdy. But where Basement Jaxx’s diversity used to serve a club-DJ flow, here they let it off the leash, with mixed results.
The album opens with “Good Luck,” a high-drama diva-soul joint that plays it pretty straight, without the filter-sweep effects Buxton and Ratcliffe usually use to sell house music to folks who might otherwise might find it cheesy. “Right Here’s the Spot” finds funk radical Meshell Ndegéocello muttering heady come-ons while a Bootsy-style space-bass pulses away. And as always, there are two drop-dead singles. The first, “Plug It In,” lets ‘N Sync free agent JC Chasez step to Justin Timberlake, wrapping his falsetto around a rave-powered chorus that stands you on your toes, then kicks you in the ass. The second is “Lucky Star,” with wiggy U.K. rapper Dizzee Rascal hooting and sputtering rhymes over a sped-up belly-dance groove.
The rest is a bumpy ride. “Cish Cash” is a synth rocker with goth-punk vet Siouxsie Sioux that tries a bit too hard to get with the new (i.e., old) death-disco program. And “Supersonic” works gospel samples and a harmonica solo into a slightly kitschy lather. You gotta admire the impulse toward inclusion, best expressed by Buxton’s exhortation on “Living Room”-“Come on all you loners! /Cloners and stoners!” But being a good omnivorous producer is like being a good ballroom dancer: Even if you’ve got a million moves, sometimes it’s better to stick with your best.