Basement Jaxx has a lot to live up to. The London duo's last full-length release, 2001's Rooty, was declared by some the savior of acid house's ever-teetering legacy, and the record that would finally -- a decade late -- smash dance music through the layers of pop, rock and hip hop dominating American charts for so long. Of course, that didn't happen. (Though the U.S. took anti-rockism a step further on Oct. 11, 2003, when the Billboard top-10 was, for the first time ever, comprised entirely of hip-hop and R&B tracks.) But deejays and listeners alike have waited for the band's new Kish Kash with similar expectations. And guess what? They're probably not gonna be met.
Rather than go for their American breakthrough, Basement Jaxx has put together a solid start-to-finish album, from the cynical opening of "Good Luck" to the honestly sentimental ender "Feels Like Home." Yeah, an album -- not just a collection of dance tracks (although Kish Kash is that, too), but a concise and artistically assembled slab of music with a willingness to let down its defenses ("Feels Like Home," "If I Ever Recover") just as much as to slam big beats and fire up dance floors ("Supersonic," "Plug It In," Siouxsie Sioux's Blondie-like vocals on "Cish Cash").
But the highlight of Kish Kash, as his fans would already assume, is U.K.-garage superstar Dizzee Rascal's appearance, "Lucky Star." Backed by somewhat played-out huffin'-and-puffin'-female samples and a vaguely Middle Eastern melody, Rascal rhymes his modern-day "Cockney Translation," unaspirated consonants and all, to the full extent of his signature madness. (Side note: U.S. indie Matador Records recently announced plans to release Rascal's Boy in da Corner stateside in January -- hallelujah.)
Kish Kash isn't going to convert too many of the guitar-needy to its booty-hearted acidic vibe -- nor, for that matter, will it find fans amongst many experimental computer-bleep electronica fans. No, this is the mojito of electronic dance music -- there's some deadly, knockout rum in it, but the casual drinker just might finish the whole thing without noticing.