Basement Jaxx
Kish Kash
Astralwerks
2003
A



ah! So with Kish Kash, Basement Jaxx deliver yet another disc pumped to the gills of every sound in the world they can get their hands on. Curiously, much like their pop music opposite in Timbaland—he who values open space as opposed to Ratcliffe and Buxton’s zest for overlapping layers that theoretically shouldn’t work, but do, oh so well—Kish Kash finds the band settling into a comfortable groove, almost refusing to push any sort of an envelope, but instead—the crucial instead!—almost playing a sort of catch-up, lapping up production—Indian strings, most prominently—that we have heard in far more vital context on Rooty, or ... top forty radio!

But see, that’s just it! The context, then—like with Radiohead, have we—the collective music listening world—come to expect an album that stirs our souls and changes everything we’ve thought possible from the giants of genres we still hold dearly to our hearts? We hope and expect for Rooty’s completely wild ... well, kish kash of noise ... to be somehow surpassed. Well no. Kish Kash, the album, rides triumphantly along the Basement Jaxx formula we know and love, the formula of throwing weird shit in everywhere! What an oxymoron it is trying to stab this group critically—is there anything wrong with continually surprising the listener?

Critic-proof, is what this is. Can you dance to it? Is there lots of wildness going on at any given moment? Absolutely. And so we’ve come to expect ... a complete overhaul? No. I tried to convince myself one hundred words ago that this album had some sort of serious flaw, something that would make me, you know, not enthusiastically love it to pieces. I can’t.

So this album isn’t a circumcision of dancefloor antics, not in the least—but at least a sense of genre exploration. These are real songs here, with choruses and verses and vocals wrapped around each other. "Good Luck" opens this album, a clear, absolute presentation of the best of Basement Jaxx.

"Rendez Vu," which opens Remedy, understands this—so does "Romeo," Rooty’s opener. Where one is brooding and wraps in and out of itself through wildly chopped Latin guitar and the other sounds like ... a pop smash, or something wonderful, a beautiful vocal all the way upfront that is the climax, not "Rendez Vu" attack of pulsating noise—"Good Luck" is then the best Basement Jaxx track I’ve ever heard. It culls from both—about a scorned lover sarcastically wishing "good luck, in your new bed! Enjoy your nightmares!" to the other, this deep hole in the heart, "no more crying, leaving me so black and blue," and finally, this, this manifesto, this absolute, God, I am so done with you!—"no more lies! No more lies! Without you!"—and, like “Romeo”, it grows and grows in confidence, a celebration of life with tremendous strings that would otherwise scream "we’ve grown up," or something—and in a sense, they have. Basslines hop into handclaps and whirring computers end it—it’s a coherent work, like "Romeo," but the absolute surprise of ... wonder and on-edge tension from "Rendez Vu" is just so present.

But of course, this track explodes into chaos, a controlled release—the sound of your soul slowly burning. Has Basement Jaxx ever been human before this? "Good Luck" is the first Jaxx track where clutter aligns into pop production, not a surprise, but a welcome reentry. Sort of like the rest of this album.

Kish Kash certainly does not fail, though, in delivering many, many Jaxxisms upon us. The title track sounds sort of like "Where’s Your Head At?" in its absolute furore—but this time, Siouxsie fucking Sioux takes vocals! And there’s no recognizable melody, except for that whurrrrrrr, like the gooiest electroclash you’ll ever hear. Oh my God, and the Dizzee Rascal track! "Lucky Star" is the sound of computers fucking—not machines tenderly making love like in "Jus 1 Kiss," no-o, this is certainly not a pussy disco number, but your iBook running the ugly IBM desktop into the wall, crushing monitors and making squares fit into round edges—like some weird techno Middle Eastern rap, and that Dizzee bile warping it farther and farther until a wonderful bridge. Vintage Jaxx beats clutter the scene—vocoded backup vocals stutter and biting snares stab your earlobes—and a downstrum acoustic guitar pops up as the beat drops and Dizzee is reduced to whispering. Brooding, exciting—then a beatbox and synths appear out of nowhere.

Hardly danceable—well, no, it’s got a great beat, and I can dance to it—but this is precisely why this track is the lead English single. "Living Room," on contrast, is two-and-a-half minutes of a defiant groove, a snare rap that slowly builds over Spanish guitar. "Come into my living room," someone leers, "and let me take all your clothes off." But then—after a minute of ascending synthesized glitter and dead-eyed slut sneering, this filthy ride ends in a genuine surprise, a revelation that a climax can be held out only by vocal histrionics instead of ... eighty-four different samples on top of each other. "It might be too late!" and exotic European "hunh! hunh!"s are held out over kick-drum. The very moment where it should spiral out of control, it’s all reigned in. Do I laugh? Sing along? I don’t know. I’m certainly not dancing. In awe, perhaps—this newfound sense of pop showmanship is astounding for the two of them.

Oh, and of course, there’s still that Prince thing going on here. Oh man, is it ever. The very strand—well, okay, perhaps it’s what their careers are built on, but whatever—that leads directly back to Minneapolis is just what runs from Remedy to Kish Kash. But I suppose it’s simply done here, again, wonderfully. "Plug It In" claps and drones inside of itself, with JC Chasez-lent wailing spread everywhere like butter on shithot toast, melting into a wonderfully smooth vocoder breakdown.

God, what am I possibly getting at here? That it’s been far too long—that, like Daft Punk, every Basement Jaxx will simply be amazing and will get us all down, as expected? Absolutely—maybe I’m just a fanboy. Kish Kash is not a surprise. It is simply how dance music—natch, pop music—should be done.
Reviewed by: Sam Bloch
Reviewed on: 2003-10-21
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