In a recent post to his blog on the New Yorker website, the critic Sasha Frere-Jones made a case for his poor track record in predicting public taste by pointing out that he had Basement Jaxx, not Daft Punk, pegged to be a major crossover act at the start of the decade. His reasoning was that, while Daft Punk mined a fairly narrow robot-funk aesthetic, Basement Jaxx emphasized human voices and cherry-picked sounds from a wide range of genres, which should logically open them up to a broader audience. The opposite was true.
Previewed by "Twerk" -- their booty-disco, "Maniac"-quoting team-up with Yo Majesty -- plus the uplifting perfection of the five-star track "Raindrops" -- sung by member Felix Buxton with Auto-Tune on the assist -- Scars is an obvious return-to-form effort for Basement Jaxx, reigning in the big conceptual ambition displayed on Crazy Itch Radio for better or worse. Getting back to everyday business sounds like sweet relief on tracks like the good-timing "Twerk," and while this is the lunk-headed party theme you'd expect from such a pairing, two of the other marquee-worthy collaborations far exceed expectations. First up is the hot-stepping, Santigold cut "Saga," which suggests that a shared love of the Clash and the Specials was discussed ahead of time.
When we finally getting around to trying to sum up the “sound” of the first decade of the new millennium, all we’ll need is just two words: Basement Jaxx. Now, this isn’t because the Jaxx have conquered the airwaves with hit after ubiquitous hit (hell, the group was dropped from their label Astralwerks after they won a Grammy for their 2004 set Kish Kash), invented entirely new subgenres, or created songs so iconic that every indie-rock group in the world wants to cover them mere seconds after they get released. No, this is a group who’s most mainstream cultural appearance so far has been licensing out some tracks from their 2001 disc Rooty for a couple montage sequences in the film Bend It Like Beckham.
Basement Jaxx's Scars arrives after a troubled gestational period, with the duo citing numerous changes, both personal and musical, as leaving them feeling 'a bit lost'. After four albums and with many of their contemporaries having faded from the public view somewhat, it seemed that the Brixton duo had reached something of an impasse. Having dabbled with a darker minimalist sound, it was as recently as the turn of the year that the duo decided to up the positivity, citing their hearing of Dizzee Rascal and Armand Van Helden's 'Bonkers' as a inspiration for this change.
Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe mistakenly assume that collaborations are enough to make an album interesting. It might've worked in 1999, when their debut, Remedy, ushered dance music into this decade. But years of mashups, mixtapes and remixes have dulled their appeal to the point where a Santigold vocal on Saga (pointlessly similar to her own Specials rip, Lights Out) just doesn't carry much weight.