Basement Jaxx - Crazy Itch Radio
Alex Worsnip 15/09/2006
When Basement Jaxx first broke onto the UK music radar, they were just another dance duo with a bit hit (“Red Alert”), and seemed destined to fade into obscurity just like their contemporaries Phats & Small, or Shanks & Bigfoot. But there was one fact which such a prediction would have overlooked, namely that Basement Jaxx were by the far the best outfit, as evidenced by the steady stream of quality tracks that have followed: “Bingo Bango”, “Where's Your Head At” and “Lucky Star” to name the best. With a finger in every vaguely dance-related pie to be had, they consistently make well-produced songs, even when they're dabbling in styles that you might not personally like.
The first thing to say about “Crazy Itch Radio” is that it pretty much follows in the same groove, and maintains a general feel of quality throughout. The second thing to say is that there's nothing here that screams “single”, which you do need to pull you in to albums of this style. “Hush Boy” probably comes closest, a frenetic collage of funk, RnB, pop and house somewhat along the lines of “Oh My Gosh”, but better, reaching towards the playful experimentation of early Daft Punk if they turned their attention to UK urban music. There's a range of other good tracks, from the organic soul of “On The Train”, which actually sounds a little like Gnarls Barkley, to the old-school rave-up “Everybody” and the frantic “Run 4 Cover”, which alternates between quick grime chat and spaced out ambience. Best of all, though, is the most unpredictable: the gorgeous “Lights Go Down” is a blissed-out, orchestrated sea of thick synths and slinky vocals, like a more street M83 without the prog-rock pretentions.
Elsewhere, though, things are solid but unspectacular, and pretty much stick on the trajectory of exactly what you would expect from a Basement Jaxx album. 'Smoke Bubbles' is pretty disposable, recycled RnB, while 'Keep Keep On' is meandering trip-hop that never goes anywhere. And you do feel the need for an all-out, four-to-the-floor stormer a la 'Red Alert', which never really comes. It's for this reason that I can't see 'Crazy Itch Radio' being a smash, only a respectable effort that will more than satisfy fans. But nevertheless, it displays that Basement Jaxx have more longevity than most dance acts put together.