on 13 June 2007
Piggybacking on the success of Never, Never, Land, Lavelle, File and Gen return with a very stark, moody offering. Quelle surprise. A lot can happen in four years: new governments arise, wars can start and end, people get married, divorced and fight for custody, technological advances, etc. Its a good thing, then, that Unkle has decided to do the same. Their fans are getting a little older now: some have families, getting nice chunky guts, mortgages, perhaps have dramatic changes happen in their lives. Its nice to know that, although some things are different, they are still the same. This offering from Unkle retains so much of the attitude and mood that has made their work so popular, but has changed so very nicely to suit their now aging legion of fans.
I can happily say that I have been there since Psyence Fiction and, in my opinion, they have improved vastly and gained a maturity that I wish their contemporaries would consider. I am so very sick of The Chemical Brothers now. When will they learn? Having been staunchly anti-rock and pro-techno through most of my teens made me privy to the alternative sounds of Unkle in the first place, but it is now the abrasive rock sound that has drawn me back to them yet again. We seem to be maturing in parallel.
All of their albums had their place in time. They were very much of the moment. Very fashionable pieces of music made obvious by the ridiculous amount of merchandise that surrounded them. This album is no exception and i'm sure there will be silly plastic figures and £300 pairs of trainers to accompany this release. But I still like the music.
The album is very rock and, like I said, moody. Its probably got an agenda (its called War Stories for heaven's sake) but I don't care what it is. The sound is what i'm after and it sounds good. Lavelle makes a good vocal debut under heavily treated lyrics on track 3, and who would have thought that The Cult and Unkle would have made a record together circa Psyence Fiction? Unkle's power to surprise rings truer than ever with this album. The tourability of this release will probably be a huge fantasy lived out by Lavelle. It seems he's finally made it to the stage after much arsing around with decks and toys. Yes there is a huge glut of guests on the album, but it wouldn't be Unkle if there weren't, would it? Its the effectiveness and the diversity of guests that makes the album come together as a nice melange of sound and vocal that makes the album work, as well as Ant Gen's superb production skills. It really is superbly produced. Mixed to perfection.
But it doesn't get five. Five would mean it can't get better, and I think with this record they could well have peaked. I thoroughly enjoyed the album, but it's partly to do with what other new stuff is available. There isn't an awful lot. The best one this year I think is the new Amon Tobin album, but again that one didn't quite reach the dizzying heights of his prior work. This new Unkle album seems brilliant in comparison to pretty much anything new out there at the moment. Another gripe is, and hopefully this will change, that there aren't that many catchy tracks. And it doesn't really have the peaks and troughs of their prior work. It kind of flatlines a little. I could even go on to say that it's too long. So I will.
But I still really like it. It wont mix with their other work on an Unkle compilation CD, but it should be listened to as an album anyway. If their albums were siblings, PF would be the young hip-hop, weed smoking adolescent, NNL would be the pretentious goth and WS would be the mature older brother that's got better things to do than think too hard about which music is fashionable to listen to. It probably has an office job and drives a Golf TDI. But with a big exhaust.
If you like rock, perhaps a little POST rock, then, why not? You wouldn't be reading this unless you checked out some of their prior work, and chances are, you will be a little older and wiser to appreciate it. And you probably have the money for it.
Still, the Hybrid and Force Mass Motion remixes will be good.