Does This Make Them Crazy?
Felix Buxton, Simon Ratcliffe and the rotation of divas and boasters who form Basement Jaxx have been throwing everything and the kitchen sink onto the dance floor since the days of Remedy‘s “Red Alert” and “Rendez-Vu.” Their fourth album, Crazy Itch Radio, sees them setting the bar of success far too high and making left-field music far less engaging than the rest of their catalog.The problems start with an attempt to combine two concept albums into one. First, a flimsy radio station backdrop is built around little more than intrusive snippets of music and dialogue (“Zoomalude,” “Intro Reprise”). Second, the girl-meets-boy tale purportedly told through the song cycle fizzles between the soulless “Smoke Bubbles” and the far superior 3 a.m. tune “Lights Go Down,” both mourning companionship lost.
Too often the genre blending on Crazy Itch Radio exceeds wild inventiveness and simply becomes grating. Lead tracks “Hush Boy” (with Biz Markie’s awkward assistance on its “You want me for your girlfriend” chorus) and “Take Me Back to Your House” are shrill enough that you might not make it past them. If you do, you’ll find “Run 4 Cover” poorly channels the grimey dancehall of M.I.A. and Lady Sovereign.
The influences here — mostly Latin ballrooms and Eastern European villages and nightclubs — form a double-edged sword. Proportioned correctly, they bring you the album’s closing mid-tempo groove “U R On My Mind” and the percolating brass of “Hey You.” Otherwise, casual listeners may think they’re hearing a new Gwen Stefani or Black Eyed Peas album. It’s more proof that Basement Jaxx must do everything big — even fail.