Never Play It Alone
Thievery Corporation have a dirty little secret. The Washington, D.C. club duo gently but firmly stake their collective reputation on the backs of other people. Think about it: half of their highly touted catalog consists of little more than various-artist albums, from hour-long mixes to hip, handpicked compilations.On their fourth studio LP, The Cosmic Game, those “other people” include more than the interchangeable raggamuffins and divas who try to give their downtempo some depth. Nor does the list end with appearances by the Flaming Lips (with sweetly urgent work on the vaguely political “Marching the Hate Machines into the Sun”), David Byrne, and Perry Farrell.
Those people also include you, especially at your nearest club, lounge, or party. The album best serves many listeners at once — which is to say that it blends into the background, ultimately ignored by folks more interested in the supermodels across the room.
The Cosmic Game lacks that certain X-factor in arranging its slower and faster rhythms, Latin and Indian influences, or even song transitions that made other Thievery Corporation albums palatable. Byrne’s non sequiturs in “The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter” start a varied stretch of four fun songs, yet the three heavy Spanish offerings preceding them make you sleepy. And while “Amerimacka” wraps up a pleasantly dubby sequence, at other points you fail to realize one song has ended and a totally different one has begun.
It is a formula for frustration. Despite half of its songs actually being quite good, forget about picking this one out of a crowd, and forget about enjoying it by yourself.