Top critical review
Patchy psychedelia but inspired at times
on 25 February 2018
Being someone who is old enough to recall the glorious days when one took sides in music - fundamentally, you either believed in rock or in disco - I firmly believe that the downfall of popular music began around 1983 when dull indie material sucked all the colour out of rock and then hit a nadir in 1987, when dance music became a faux-psychedelic subculture with acid house and the baggy groups. Although I can see the virtue of Happy Mondays and Stone Roses, appreciate how dull grunge was and see the limitations of Britpop, the likes of Suede, Mansun, Manics, Pulp (prior to the overplayed 'Common People') and even Oasis on their best days was a relief. However, some of the rock musicians who turned to dance music did some great things - The Shamen amongst them. I grew to like some dance music, but found that whenever I did, it was almost always by people who used to be in rock bands. There were also some who produced boring work - Noko from Apollo 440 (whichcouldn't match Luxuria) and the guys from Underworld who were once in the much better Freur.
The Shamen, however, knew how to float my boat - Colin Angus was serious about his psychedelia (both musically and philosophically - you could tell he'd read his Huxley et al) and being a fan of electronic music (it's worth mentioning that synthesizers were first used by rock bands The Byrds and The Doors back in 1968 and were commonly used by Glam, Progressive, Punk, New Wave, New Romantic andeven Heavy Metal bands throughout the seventies) I felt The Shamen were channelling Kraftwerk quite well at times. ...and don't let anyone fool you: the fact is that back in the 70s, it was rock fans who listened to Kraftwerk rather than disco kids ( I know, I was there....the closest disco fans came to electronica until the 80s was Moroder's production of 'I Feel Love' for Donna Summer and they weren't big fans of his work with Sparks or Japan - plus his schtick of being able to do the same thing over and over again with analogue sequencers soon became tired).
I digress. I enjoyed 'En-Tact', which contained excellent slices of rocky, well-crafted acid pop like "Move Any Mountain", "Make It Mine", "Hyperreal" and so on. There was a little filler, but nothing too taxing, plus good stuff like "Possible Worlds" with some nice guitar. The singles from 'Boss Drum' were even better "LSI", "Boss Drum" - here comes the BUT....
The title track is fine on the album, but the single versions are arguably as good and are as yet uncollected. 'LSI' is fine, but the album version of "Phorever People" is probably the best version of a track that there is no perfect version of (shame, because with the right edit this would have been an equal of 'LSI', which is shorter, punchier and is weighted more towards outstanding guest vocalist Jhelisa Anderson (of Soul Family Sensation, whose a;bum 'New Wave' is worth buying if you like her Shamen work). Much of the rest of the album is disappointing (though 'EGoode' is OK, with its grinding guitars and silly puns) with the exception of "Scientas" ( which wouldn't be out of place on a Steve Hillage album circa 1976) and "Re:Evolution" which features now deceased botanic pharmacist McKenna chatting away about drugs and human evolution. Overall, it's very up and down and would have benefited from more conventional rock songwriting from Angus and more lead vocals from Jhelisa, who then vanished from the band's orbit and didn't appear with them live on the subsequent tour (much to my chagrin).
In short: seek out the original CD singles, burn them onto one disc and off you go!