Queens Of The Stone Age, Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx, Prefuse73 2005 David Bennun
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Queens Of The Stone Age/
Daft Punk/
Basement Jaxx/

[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]

THERE are bigger rock bands today than Queens Of The Stone Age, and rock bands more adept at flamboyant attention-seeking; but I'm hard-pressed to think of a better one. Their music has a lean and thrilling purity unmatched since the heyday of Swiss guitar-samplers The Young Gods. They seldom waste a note, or a second.
 Songs For The Deaf, their last, superb album, was a fearsome hot rod of a record, powered by the drumming of guest Dave Grohl. Line-up changes have left mainman Josh Homme as the band's sole constant, and made Lullabies To Paralyze (Interscope, ****) a different creature to its predecessor, capable of fancier footwork - but a monster nonetheless. Lullabies rounds up styles from vaudeville to warped garage blues and forces them to rock at gunpoint.
 Kraftwerk invented the idea of the band as machine. Daft Punk's variation on that theme has been one of the most enjoyable. Their first album, Homework, was an invigorating techno-funk marvel; and their second, Discovery, captivated through repetition.
 The title of Human After All (Virgin, **) may be intended sardonically - the album has the most mechanised mood of their work to date - but it's apt in that they've come a bit of a cropper. Human feels sterile: short on ideas, and not too long on technique either. The French duo went to lunch and left their machine to do the work. While they were out, the ghost escaped.
 Basement Jaxx's The Singles (XL, ****) confirms their standing among this decade's outstanding singles bands: 15 tracks, and every one a coconut. They number among the few Prince acolytes to glom not only the teeny maestro's sounds, but also his eclectic daring. While they specialise in brash, bouncy electro-soul with snarling female vocals (Red Alert, Good Luck, Romeo), they also drag in pop-punk (Where's Your Head At, Plug It In) and Latin House (Samba Magic, the delicious Rendez Vu) to merry effect. Instrumentalist innovator DJ Shadow casts a long - yes, you guessed it - over avant-garde hip hop. Prefuse73's Surrounded By Silence (Warp, ***) owes plenty to Shadow, but it's a striking and pleasurable album in its own right. Atmospherically wobbly and tangential, it features appearances from Wu Tang alumni GZA and Ghostface alongside a host of other left-field rap notables. I like it a lot.

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