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UNKLE
Never, Never, Land


4.0
excellent

Review

by The Jungler USER (183 Reviews)
October 1st, 2006 | 23 replies


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist


An old, weary man’s voice marks the start of UNKLE’s second effort. He speaks of the past, changes and how quickly things can go from good to bad. In addition to making for a creepy opener his words sum up the album’s quality perfectly: A bunch of bloody amazing songs spliced up in some fairly mediocre efforts. UNKLE, probably most famous for their collaboration with Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke on Rabbit in Your Headlights , are a Trip Hop duo. Comprised of James Lavelle and a rotating second member (at one point, circa the release of UNKLE’s debut DJ Shadow held this spot) UNKLE create eclectic Trip Hop with the aid of hosts of talented guest vocalists and rappers. Their sound is very dense, organic and dark. It’s smooth yet scary, dense yet clear.

A perfect example of this sound’s greater points is on what is possibly Never, Never, Land’s best song, Eye for an Eye . The song begins with a strummed middle-eastern tinged Guitar line, building with this foreign melody is an array of both acoustic and electric drumming big bass drum rolls compliment electronic high-hat sixteenths perfectly underneath synthesizer twiddling. The vocals also have a sort of foreign, dated feel to them. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth is repeated overtop another man’s wonderings. The wondering man utters the line Where your going, your not coming back from… and then the song kicks into overdrive. The synth twiddles multiply, while the drums become more frantic. By the end of the song, in addition to the singer near screaming “Run, run, run but you just can’t hide” , strings have joined the mix along with multiple keyboard lines, making the production so dense it’s almost impossible to dissect the parts. A fantastic song to use as a first track (not counting the introduction) and a fantastic first single in general.

The whole album has a feel similar to that of “Eye for an Eye”. It doesn’t necessarily sound like Eye for an Eye but they both share many of the same qualities. The production is very dense on each song; in addition the production is very flowing, the strings sections flourish, the guitar parts are pretty sounding strummed chords, the drum parts are very natural and even the synthesizers don’t give it away as an Electronica album. As one would expect from a man who was once partners with Trip-Hop god DJ Shadow, all the songs also have a very dark feeling. It would be a daunting task to even find a happy sounding moment on the album. Even In a State the poppiest, most upbeat track on the album creates a very gloomy aura. Only when soaring strings join the song’s pounding hand percussion, acoustic guitar and creepy synth arpeggios does it even come close to having an uplifting feeling. I Need Something Stronger could probably be considered the Yin to In a State’s Yang, as far as the album goes. It’s composed of entirely electronic instruments and is very ambient, probably an after product of having Brian Eno play on the song as a guest.

But as with most albums, there are always a few bad tracks. Panic Attack is one of them. Panic Attack has a very claustrophobic feel to it, hence the name. Quick electronic arpeggios played over a fast beat make a great home to the worst vocal on the album. The song’s saving grace are the acoustic guitar “breakdowns”, usually these parts feature a woman’s voice singing a pretty harmony and nothing else but an acoustic guitar. Panic Attack appears smack dab in the middle of the album and is easily its weakest track. Also heading up Never, Never, Land’s filler section are two useless remixes at the end of the album. Josh Homme’s Eye for an Eye Backwards hardly changes the song at all, while Chris Gross’s Safe in Mind (Please Take this Gun from Out My Face (Remix) takes one of the coolest tracks on the album and turns it into a lame minimalist bore-fest that I have trouble not skipping, a damn near terrible way to end the album.

While the literal ending to the album hardly matches the rest of the album’s quality, the last few non-remix tracks on the album contain two of its highlights. Reign features a quick string line leading the melody and one of the better vocals on the album which Stone Roses’ front man Ian Brown delivers. I am the reign; I’m going to rein this way again. I am the reign, Reign a Reign a Reign again Brown sings right before the five or so minute track ends, and Glow begins. Glow is a beautiful acoustic ballad, with pleasant guitar, sweeping strings and a pretty vocal spot by Joel Cadbury. While the track is playing, it’s superb but its very forgettable. This may be due to the fact that Inside follows it.

Inside is the perfect track to close the album with. It’s memorable, scary and brilliant. It begins with a sample from Jacob’s Ladder “The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of life [/u] and ends with 60 or so seconds of silence, but the in the middle is where the genius lies. Inside is another track featuring a prominent Acoustic Guitar line, something hardly used on UNKLE’s debut. Searing strings, electronic drums, and a bouncy bass line add to the music creating one of the densest beats on the album. The chorus to Inside is easily the catchiest on the album. It soars above the verses and is staggeringly beautiful. The lyrics are also probably the most human on the album, and are about a relationship of some kind. And love does see/ Sense in all of this/ Something's gotta give the singer lets out before arriving at the chorus where You don't wanna see/ You don't wanna see/ Inside of me is sung over a heartfelt string line. And so the track ends, and the album should end.

Sans the lame remixes at the end, Never, Never, Land is truly an album to hear. Its pretty, dark and relatively brilliant. Its only flaw when compared Psyence Fiction is the lack of DJ Shadow. The song’s also lack the diversity of Psyence, which in my mind can go either way as far as hurting or helping the album. Never, Never Land receives a strong 4/5.

-Dan



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user ratings (104)
3.6
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Electric City
Emeritus
October 1st 2006


15757 Comments


Hmm, I've only heard Rabbit In Your HEadlights from these guys.

Good review

Tyler
Emeritus
October 1st 2006


7927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I love this album, but it's really not as complete (if that makes sense) as I'd like.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
October 28th 2016


25603 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good review dude. I think you should get rid of that last line "Never, Never Land receives...".



This is one of my favourite albums ever, I like it much more than Psyence.

Digging: Anette Olzon - Strong

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2017


25603 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

And it seems I am alone in that.

TheSpaceMan
July 2nd 2018


13191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lol i think i like it more than psyence too, dewi

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
July 2nd 2018


25603 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oh Jesus the gods have listened and they've sent someone to share my love for this album. Bless the Heavens!



Damn, I just realized there is almost an exact one year difference between my last 2 comments.



Scary.



Log S.
June 19th 2020


3240 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album's fantastic & wildly overlooked but I wouldn't put it above Psyence. kind of lost interest after War Stories though after seeing Man from Mo Wax recently it's got me on a pretty big kick of all things Lavelle

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2020


25603 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The last two albums were alright (I prefer the first part) and Where Did The Night Fall is pretty solid. I actually didn't like War Stories much. I know it's controversial but my ranking would be:



never, neverland > psyence fiction > Where Did the Night Fall >The Road I > War Stories > The Road II >



I think I never jammed End Titles, or at least I don-t remember...

Log S.
June 19th 2020


3240 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

after seeing MfMW it seems like this might have actually been the most harmonious UNKLE ever was as a project, with the Lavelle/File collab (& the fact that File was a recurring voice/songwriter on the album) was a bit more give & take than Shadow/Lavelle (which obviously didn't end too well)

in fact, File's songs & voice are a big part of why i love this one & subsequently lost interest when his role was minimized on WS then when he flat-out left shortly after. kinda hurts that there were seemingly no live performances or anything from this period too, though i may be missing something

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2020


25603 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

No you're right. And after File left they switched to the featuring system fully which brough some interesting collabs, special mention to keaton henson on The Road pt. 1.



But yeah, I miss Rich a lot. His vocals in "In a State" are just perfect. The live versions I've seen around with another dude weren't good at all.

TheSpaceMan
June 19th 2020


13191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

even now in heaven there are angels carrying savage weapons

Log S.
June 19th 2020


3240 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Dewinged, you ever heard his solo stuff (either under "Rich File" or Forme?)

I'm probably gonna check it all out soon

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
June 20th 2020


25603 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I haven't! But I will. I'm specially interested in his project with Wendy Rae Fowler, We Fell on Earth.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
June 20th 2020


67103 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I could see an argument for this being better than Psyence Fiction. They both have some of UNKLE's best tracks. They both also have some terrible, terrible..... terrible moments

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
June 20th 2020


25603 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oh shit, didn't know you dig this potsy. What's the terrible moment here?

Lord(e)Po)))ts
June 20th 2020


67103 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Trip-Hop and adjacent styles encompass pretty much all of my favourite music so ye, course I like UNKLE! Psyence Fiction and this are quintessential. In fact this should be a 5 I don't know why I have it 4.5'd, gonna fix. But I don't always consider classics to be perfect.



On this Reign is a lowlight for me until the last like minute (which makes up for it). And Awake the Unkind is an unremarkable closer. And I have a weird thing with Eye For An Eye where sometimes I dig it and other times it pisses me off and that vocal hook gets stuck in my head in an aggravating loop and it drives me mental.



Upon reflection though none of those are nearly as terrible as any of the lows on Psyence Fiction. That album may have the best, most important UNKLE moments but some of it is actually terrible.



Both Drums of Death parts are whack as fuck, Celestial Annihilation is whack, Chaos is a snore, and apparently I just don't like Ian Brown's singing cuz sometimes I can't stand his performance on Be There, yet Unreal is my all-time favourite UNKLE song. And Nursery Rhyme is ok but it's bit of a weird and abrupt digression. Energy/tone is an issue i guess. But there is nothing on this that I think is as remarkable as UNKLE Main Theme, Bloodstain, Unreal, or Rabbit.



I think I have to agree this is a more enjoyable experience from front to back at least when it comes to coherence.



Log S.
June 20th 2020


3240 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

isn't Awake the Unkind just a bonus track or something? I wasn't even aware of it until checking out the album on Spotify, until then Inside was always the closer for me

surprised you chose "Reign" as the lowlight though, I might honestly like that one even more than "Be There"

Log S.
June 20th 2020


3240 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

can't believe you shat on Drums of Death though, part 1 fuckin' SLAMS. not my favorite on the album but what an opener. i like pt 2 but can understand why Mike D's part on it might not be for everybody

Lonely Soul might legitimately be my favorite track of all time, from any artist

Lord(e)Po)))ts
June 20th 2020


67103 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Awake the Unkind might very well be a bonus track I dont recall. Might explain why it feels so unmemorable to me lol

TheSpaceMan
June 20th 2020


13191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"none of those are nearly as terrible as any of the lows on Psyence Fiction"



thats why i like this one more. theres more parts on psyience fiction that just do absolutely nothing for me. invasion is also just fucking perfect



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