Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Basement Jaxx: My Retrospective

I recently acquired a copy of Scars, the new album by Basement Jaxx. I was skeptical of what it might sound like, but I must admit I was pleasantly surprised at their triumphant return form. It reminded me of exactly why I love Basement Jaxx so much.
I came across the first Basement Jaxx album, Remedy, in my office when I worked for Delicious (a pre-millenium club night at Sydney's infamous Underground Cafe). It was 1999. House music reigned supreme. We were always getting sent promo CDs. Remedy was one of them.

It got thrashed in our office. I liked it so much that I got a copy and put it in my boyfriend's Datsun 1600 so we'd have something to listen to when we drove home early Sunday mornings after a big night out. It got thrashed in the Datto too. Those days have left me with a lot of fond memories of this album.

At the time, the sound was so fresh. From latin and reggae through to hip hop and trance, they mixed together something that should have sounded like a mess, but somehow came out like magic. It was so progressive, it defined the sound of the millenium - for me anyway.

With the first decade of the millenium drawing to close, Remedy has proved it could stand the test of time. Even at the ripe old age of 10 years, Remedy sounds as fresh as ever. A testament to the amazing talent of it's creators, Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe.

I feel very lucky I got to see them play live in 2000. They were breathe taking.
The follow up album, Rooty, was released in 2001. I was living in London at the time, working as a freelance designer. There were 2 reasons I bought the album as soon as I saw it - firstly, because I adored the first album, and secondly, because I loved the cover artwork which featured Snowflake, the world's only known albino gorilla.

Rooty continued right where Remedy left off, blending otherwise uncomplimentary sounds in a way that was unbelievably good. But this time, the sound was poppier, featuring more R&B and grimy MCs. The Jaxx had reinvented the wheel by bring an even newer edge to their punk-garage sound.

Rooty became the soundtrack for my life in London. I think I had 'Romeo' on repeat for a month. It was getting smashed on dancefloors everywhere. Then suddenly it was September 11 and the whole world seemed to stand still. After that, all I can remember is desperately wanting to come home.Their third album, Kish Kash, was released in 2003. By this point I was living back in Sydney, and I'd become a little bit jaded. As much as I'd loved Remedy and Rooty, I was skeptical that the Jaxx could possibly come up with another album of the same calibre.

Whilst their wasn't anything particularly wrong with the album, it wasn't a huge leap forward like the first too. They still managed to mix every conceivable sound in a way that was totally listenable and uniquely Basement Jaxx - it wasn't anything new.

But I still thrashed Kish Kash in my Nissan 180sx on a regular basis. I think the CD was pretty much permanently fixed in my stacker (or maybe that's just because it was in the boot of my car and I couldn't be assed changing it?). Plus I was having boy troubles at the time and 'Good Luck' was excellent man-hating music. And of course, after loving them live in 2000 and 2002, I saw Basement Jaxx live in 2004. They did not disappoint.

Even to this day, if I listen to Kish Kash, I get angry at men.
Crazy Itch Radio, the fourth album which was released in 2006, was probably the low light of my relationship with the Jaxx. It was the point where my worst fears came true and they produced an album which really drew short of their previous work. It wasn't a bad album, but it was underwhelming.

I can't say this album had any real effect on my life. I didn't listen to it that much. I had 'Take Me Back To Your House' in a few playlists, but the album wasn't something I went out of my way listen to. At the time I was listening to a lot heavier drum and bass sounds like Pendulum. Plus I was busy at the time, doing stuff like getting married and buying houses. Music took a back seat for a while.Which brings me to Scars.

This album is one of the best returns to form I think I've ever heard. Ten years on, the Jaxx have proven it's possible to be at the top of your game and stay there. True to form, Scars blends so many styles of music. Just when you think it's gonna taste like a seafood milkshake, it ends up like a mango smoothie - sweet and delicious.

Scars features cameos by some of the hottest hipsters on the planet. From Santigold's psy-raga in 'Saga' and Kelis' dark and brooding tones (could be something to do with her breakup - I like to think of it as a post-breakup song) in the title tune, to Sam Sparro's soulful good-times in Feelings Gone and Yoko Ono's repetitive drone in 'Day of the Sunflowers'. But perhaps the most beautiful of all the tracks off Scars is the Melodically melancholy 'Raindrops'.

All this has me wondering if this Basement Jaxx album will impact my life as much as their previous albums have. It's amazing to think that at this time in 1999, I was listening to their first album - and 10 years on, I'm still listening. All I can say is that Scars is definitely my soundtrack of the summer.

See Basement Jaxx at Good Vibrations 2010.

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