Tuesday, October 31, 2006

CD Review: Crazy Itch Radio by Basement Jaxx

Basement Jaxx, the duo behind such dance hits as "Where's Your Head At?" and "Good Luck," are back with Crazy Itch Radio, their fourth studio album. While the album feels like one of their albums from beginning to end, it also feels like the duo's formula may be running a little thin.

After a hilariously bombastic intro, things get started with "Hush Boy." It's a simple piece of dance pop that's catchy, fun, and inconsequential. What really makes it good, however, are the lyrics. They are quite funny as vocalist Vula Malinga sings of a date that moves a bit too fast.

Things get a bit peppier on "Take Me Back To Your House," a song that successfully marries country and dance. Banjos and beats team up on this song and it somehow manages to not sound like a kitschy mashup. "Hey U," on the other hand, does sound like a kitschy mashup as Balkan folk music and dance collide. This is a really weird combination and the Jaxx try their hardest to make it work. You can't help but smile at the ridiculousness of the song with its chants and full-on Balkan folk breakdown towards the end of the song. These two songs prove that you can never call Basement Jaxx musically timid.

Basement Jaxx are known for their detailed production where close listening is rewarded with the discovery of the array of sounds that populate their songs. However, two songs on Crazy Itch Radio show the negative aspects of that production style. "Run 4 Cover" sounds like the inside of a pounding headache at a carnival. The overpowering music is combined with rapping by Lady Marga that is delivered with a thick Cockney accent. You can tell that this song was intended to be fun and goofy but instead it sounds grating. It's an assault to the ears.

"Everybody" fairs better but it really should have been called "Everything." If you could call a Basement Jaxx song lazy, this is it. It feels like they just threw various things together to see if they could make a song out of it. There's a bit of Bollywood here, some leftover elements from Rooty there, and a beat that tries to make it all stick together. It's a miracle that this song isn't that bad but a little focus would've made it a whole lot better.

Crazy Itch Radio is Basement Jaxx's worst album, although it's not a bad album in the least. There are definitely a few good songs on here and the duo's penchant for experimenting is here in spades. However, something just feels missing. There's not one song that really stands out, not one that fills you with immediate sonic joy. Also, unlike other Basement Jaxx albums, this one takes a little bit of time to enjoy. Basement Jaxx aren't phoning it in yet, but this album puts the possibility into your head. Let's just hope they don't actually do it next time around.

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