Paul is Dead?
Every incarnation of Superman has their kryptonite, and it seems everything’s gone green for superstar DJ Paul Oakenfold on his second completely solo studio album, A Lively Mind. His stature weakened by hard rock and hammy vocals, the man they call “Perfecto” steps back 10 years to when big beat was, well, big, sounding hopelessly lost and uninspired.Oakenfold offers up a significant amount of guitar-fueled dance music that the Crystal Method wouldn’t be caught dead near. “The Way I Feel” and “Switch It” are full of mid-’90s faux-grunge derivations; the latter even kicks off with a riff eerily reminiscent of Collective Soul’s “Shine.” Uncharacteristically blunt yells and beats dominate songs like “Set it Off” and especially “Praise the Lord,” an embarrassing Prodigy knockoff with wails, dropouts and church-tweaking samples buffed to Perfecto’s overproduced sheen.
A Lively Mind reeks of missed opportunities. Oakenfold has an actress sing (although Brittany Murphy does a half-decent Garbage impression on “Faster Kill Pussycat”), yet reduces Grandmaster Flash to a “wassup” sample instead of actually having him work turntables. When everyone shuts up, even Oakenfold’s trance sounds brittle: “Save the Last Trance for Me” is a tiring eight minutes of euphoric chord changes, while on “Not Over” a single 4/4 snare sample overpowers the first half of what could have been a bubbling-under masterpiece.
You don’t expect such spectacular failure from the man Guinness calls the World’s Most Successful DJ, but ears don’t lie. Paul Oakenfold must stick to mixing and producing, because another album like A Lively Mind may mean he’s crossed over from the good kind of “played out” to the bad kind.