Morcheeba The Antidote Review

Album. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

This is Morcheeba's first album recorded free from major label constraints and the...

Simon Morgan 2005

Trip-hop pioneers Morcheeba return with a fifth album forged around the Godfrey brothers magpie influences. Daisy Martey takes on lead vocals for the first time, replacing Skye Edwards for a collection that transcends the bands signature downbeat style. Tunes are better defined and more distinct than on previous outings where the groove sometimes seemed the only concern. Fans of psychedelic arrangements, complex rhythms and inventive songwriting will embrace it.

This is the band's first album with new label Echo and it sounds like it was a liberating experience to record free from major label constraints. Out of dense sonic tapestries, references suddenly crystallise before your ears, then reblend with the whole. Aphex Twin, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine are all detectable; so too are the likes of Hendrix and Fairport Convention.

Another great influence is legendary arranger/producer David Axelrod whose pioneering 60s and 70s work with artists such as Lou Rawls and Cannonball Adderley boasted the same slick drums, big horns, moody strings and flirtatious flutes. All are recorded live here and sound more dynamic than the more familiar overdubbed Morcheeba sound.

Lyrically, The Antidote focuses on finding freedom often within oneself and dealing with relationships. Martey's voice has much of Grace Slick's rough-edged urgency and is a driving force throughout. Highlights include "Ten Men" with its swampy, Stone Roses-style guitar work, and a rousing climax that's one of the albums signatures.

"A Military Coup" is as ethereal as primetime Fifth Dimension; "Living Hell" veers from country-tinged reflectiveness to Santana-esque rock out. "People Carrier" boasts a riff Led Zep might claim their own. But The Antidote shows Morcheeba's poppier side too tenderly melodic tracks like "Lighten Up" and "Daylight Robbery" evoke St Etienne's sunny optimism.

Of course, a set that flaunts its influences -even ones this eclectic - so brazenly invites charges of plagiarism. But the nous with which they're melded makes this whole defiantly greater than the sum of its parts. For the malaise brought on by much of today's dance-by-numbers, it's an antidote, indeed.

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