Unkle Never, Never, Land Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

James Lavelle and his posse of moody music types follow up 1999's 'Psyence Fiction'...

Jack Smith 2003

Four years on since Unkle's debut Psyence Fiction, music industry stalwart James Lavelle is back with a new album that promises much and delivers more. With his Mo' Wax label currently in hiatus, the timing for Unkle's return couldn't be better, generating some much needed interest in a scene that's drifted from the underground into the mainstream and then back into the shadows in consecutive years.

Richard File (vocalist, and one time drum 'n' bass aficionado) and songwriter Ant Genn, with Lavelle, now make up the trio. The set opens with the Norman Whitfield/Undisputed Truth-sampling "Eye For An Eye" (a recent UK hit) - the song's animated video recently winning the prestigious McLaren Award for animation at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

"Be There" gave the group their first top ten hit in 1999. It featured the adroit Ian Brown, who again joins the group for the symphonic odyssey, "Reign" - a beautifully constructed soundscape that also features Mani on bass; trivia fans note it's the first time the two have worked together since the hedonistic days of the Stone Roses.

Lavelle's pulling-power also attracts the likes of Jarvis Cocker and Brian Eno on the ethereal electronica of "I Need Something Stronger". Massive Attack's 3D contributes the dark and moody topline on "Invasion", while Queens Of The Stone Age front-man, Josh Homme, features on the stark, yet explosive "Safe In Mind" - surely a single contender.

Never, Never, Land confesses File, is "a clash of high and low emotions", none more so on the beautifully rich "In A State", with Cocker's soothing acoustic strumming working perfectly in unison with Graham Gouldman (of 10cc fame) unearthly vocal. Sasha liked the record so much that in a rare studio sortie he's turned it into an essential club item.

With titles like "Panic Attack", "Invasion", "Safe In Mind" and "What Are You To Me?", it could be argued that Never, Never, Land is drenched in paranoia. It is. So what? Like Radiohead's Kid A it is also rich in metaphors, kaleidoscopic beats, lush cinematic soundscapes and sonic textures that are worthy of your attention.

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