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Junkie XL Radio JXL Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Junkie XL aka Tom Holkenburg, the man who introduced Elvis to the dance generation,...

Lewis Dene 2003

He calls himself a "master alchemist, electronic daredevil and breaker of sound barriers". We know him as the rogue scientist who electrified 'the King' and, via a multi-million dollar ad campaign, introduced Elvis music to the dance generation.

Had it not been for Presley's worldwide smash, "A Little Less Conversation", few outside clubland would know of Dutch producer-come-artist Tom Holkenburg. And despite his resume including co-producing Sasha's acclaimed Airdrawndagger album, working with Brazilian rockers Sepultura, and touring with the Prodigy, it'll forever be his skills at making hips gyrate from beyond the grave that will be his milestone. After all, would we have heard of Jason Nevins had it not been for his Run DMC remix?

But having a chart topper in 26 counties does have its rewards, most notably the ability to attract a plethora of artists to guest on your album. Radio JXL: A Broadcast From the Computerhell Cabin, to give it its full title, is testimony to that. Yet, whilst being able to select the cream of performers from a multitude of genres, it does have its drawbacks. The most notably, is this album doesn't quite know what it wants to be.

Is it a dance album (well there's contributions from Republica's Saffron and Sasha), or is it one for the indie kids (with the iconic presence of the Cure's Robert Smith, fun boy Terry Hall and Grant Nicholas of Feeder)? No, its dancehall (Peter Tosh) & hip-hop (Chuck D) & electroclash (Gary Numan) & soul (Solomon Burke)... you can already see the dilemma.

But get past the pigeonholing and what lies beneath? Well, actually a very well produced, and enjoyable journey through the A-Z of popular music. Spread over two CDs, the first, entitled 3pm, simulates JXL's ultimate virtual daytime radio experience - an electrified sonic soup with the aforementioned ingredients gathered from every corner of the recording world. It may be frequency miss matching, but isn't that the very essence of pop radio as we know it?

Solace is found in the second disc, 3am, a far more palatable ride: a slow-building instrumental odyssey of liquid cool ambience, deconstructed beats, and anthemic guitar-led grooves. Along the way it takes in, "Breezer", Tom's collaboration with Sasha, which still ranks as a classic moment in twenty-first century dance, and finally clarifies why the XL moniker (read Xpander of Limits) isn't just an idle boast.

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