XL - 2001 - 46 minutes
Summer's here and the "Life is fly". This lyrical message powered Basement Jaxx's awesome 'Fly Life' that exploded onto the scene in 1997 like a cluster bomb of funk. It looks like the sun has brought the South London duo out of hiding again and most appropriately too – you couldn't release such a bright, life-affirming album in the depths of winter.
The band's early singles were glorious exercises in musical cross-pollination, applying their exquisite dancefloor sensibility to a cocktail of influences from reggae, jazz, jungle and samba. The element of surprise was missing from their debut album, 'Remedy' but it was still one of the most accomplished and stylish releases of the year. One would normally expect the typical "sophomore" problems on a dance act's second album ('Beaucoup Fish', anyone?) but thankfully the disco diversity continues on 'Rooty'. Its musical richness beggars the competition with retro synth-drones, junglist breaks, wah-wah guitars and kettle drums all battling for attention in the mix.
'Romeo' you've all heard already. It's insanely catchy with a sharp vocal and those trademark vibrato whines. 'Crazy Girl' might follow a detectable 1980s-revivalist trajectory but luckily it's more Prince than Phil Collins, while 'Broken Dreams' is in the "so bad it's good" style pioneered by Daft Punk. A fey Latino combination of West Coast-style synth bass, Santana-esque guitar and a quite ridiculous flute and brass section, topped off with a plaintive vocal, it should be horrible, but isn't, thanks to the Jaxx magic. You'll be dancing to this on a beach somewhere this summer.
'Breakaway' also has the sound of the summer down pat – jerky snatches of garagey beats bounce along underneath seductively electro-tinged vocals, while 'Just One Kiss' drags Sister Sledge's 'Thinking of You' into the twenty-first century, via a Jamaican street carnival.
The duo's steadfast Brixton underground ethic is laudable but it's going to be difficult to maintain that low profile once 'Rooty' takes hold of the public consciousness. When you're packing this summer, slip this one in between the sun cream and shorts.
Tracklisting: Romeo - Breakaway - SFM - Kissalude - Jus 1 Kiss - Broken Dreams - I Want U - Get Me Off - Where's Your Head At - Freakalude - Crazy Girl - Do Your Thing - All I