Review Summary: From the group that bought you 'insomnia', comes an album that just might put you to sleep
I hate to be the one to admit it (and especially to myself) but somewhere along the way, Faithless lost their edge. At times I look back at their impressive career and think to myself that it has been a slow descent into mediocrity, but the truth needs to be said: Faithless have never quite managed to step outside of the shadow of their debut album, Reverence
. That's not to say they haven't managed to put out some quality material in the years that followed, but nothing has really managed to stand up to their 1996 efforts. To be fair, 2004's No Roots
came pretty close, but it just seemed to lack that defining Faithless quality, that effortless cool that shrouded Reverence
in a thick haze of unadulterated pleasure. Their sophomore effort, '98's Sunday 8PM
probably would have had a chance had it not been the album to follow in the wake of such fare as 'Salva Mea', 'Baseball Cap', and the earth shattering 'Insomnia', which will undoubtedly go down in the history books as one of the great house tracks of the last twenty years.
And there's no real reason why the group aren't able to conjure up the magic as both Sister Bliss and Rollo aren't exactly lacking in the dancefloor credentials; both are more than capable beat merchants, able to evoke bliss and rapture within the confines of a single track; moods and effects are thrown around at every angle, dynamics are changed at the drop of a hat, and their refreshing mix of house meets trance has generally always managed to tantalize and uplift to a certain degree. And then of course there's Maxi Jazz, a critically acclaimed street poet whose laidback and stream of consciousness thoughts and flow has always served as a startling yet soothing release when juxtaposed against the group's more sinister and frenetic numbers. All the pieces are there, all the necessary ingredients to set fire to dancefloor's and yet they've never been able to capitalize on their potential outside of the mid 90's.
And maybe no one is more aware of this than the group themselves, for this, their first new album in four years hasn't exactly been given the hype treatment. Relegated (at the time of writing) to a digital download, and being physically released only in Tesco stores, the question of “why"” has to be asked. Granted its an interesting idea, and is more than likely going to make some bank based simply off word of mouth, but the more cynical side of me would hazard that Faithless simply aren't looking to go toe to toe with some of their more contemporary dance peers. Not looking too, or they just simply aren't up to it. And while I'm certain that no band in the world would release an album that they personally weren't happy with, but after listening through The Dance
, and trying to rack my head around its very existence, well I guess I'm kinda happy that this one is a little harder to obtain.
That's not to say that this album is a complete travesty, its just not what Faithless are capable of pulling off, even in their most weakest moments. In fact one of the album's stronger moments is its beginning; 'Not Going Home' is retro Faithless through and through, a cut that steps right out of the earnest 90's dance scene with its rave highlights and hypnotic bass. Its a number that takes its time to work on you, building up out of humble beginnings, piling in the layers and stacking them up to enormous heights before they all come crashing down in a sea of rave drenched euphoria. Sadly the following numbers just don't manage to sustain the intense energy opened up so early; 'Feel Me' is just too abrasive, borrowing vocal lines from seminal synth poppers Blancmange, and distorting them into a frantic yelping that just doesn't seem to cut it given the soundtrack its laid over, coming over as if Hot Chip for example had been handed the reins. It all just sounds as if Sister and Rollo wore boxing gloves in the studio when it was mixed, and to be honest it wouldn't surprise me if that was the case. 'Crazy Bal'head's is mediocre in its dub atmosphere; while it might contain enough to get your fingers clicking on a more drunken level, in the light of sobriety its irritating and really seems to serve no purpose.
'Tweak Your Nipple' is a slightly more interesting and necessary song, though its really just more of the same at the end of the day. Faithless have always relied on a hypnotic quality in their songs, and to a degree that quality is present in most of the cuts here, but after been put under the influence for nearly fourteen years now, its becoming just a tad annoying now, like receiving the same present from the same damn grandparent year after year come Christmas. In fact the only other track that really manages to save The Dance
from being a total disaster is 'Sun To Me', a true knockout of a number that hits hard from second one, and never relents. A sense of sinister lurks beneath the surface throughout, always hinting at boiling over the surface, but always managing to keep itself in check; again another staple of the quintessential Faithless sound, the evilness that the group has played with in the past is always managed to remain nailed down by Maxi's relaxed vibes. But aside from both 'Not Going Home' and 'Northern Star' everything just seems too tame here, all a little too light and poppy, never revealing intentions that the group have investigated in the past. But credit has to be given where credit is due, unlike a lot of their peers also long in the tooth, Faithless have managed to stick to their guns, never relenting to completely change their signature style, even after so many years. I guess perseverance can be rewarding most of the time, but I'll be damned if I know just what Faithless will manage to take away from this.
Have Faithless made an album that they can be proud to call their own" Well, that one's really up to them, but in terms of the rest of their discography it comes off like an ugly cousin; it looks similar and feels right, but it when it opens its mouth something just seems wrong. Before, I used to crave new releases from the group, as they've always managed to capture the sound of the workaday man eager to let his hair down come the weekend, but The Dance
just comes across as the weekend that needed to end a long time ago. Until Faithless start to really capitalize on their enormous potential its simply going to be a case of I'll love you more if I see you less.