[The Mail On Sunday, 2001]
BEAT EM UP
YOU COULD be forgiven for not noticing that Lisa Stansfield has a new album out, even after you buy it. In fact, you can play Face Up in its entirety without ever once noticing it. Which is no doubt the point. Stansfield specialises in unobtrusive, businesslike and mildly lubricious soul with no ideas above its station. Some records want to change your life. This isn't one of them. It aspires to no more than an occasional spin with the telly turned off, the nippers parked at their grandparents' house, and candlewax dripping onto the best tablecloth. The next day, it will return to its box imbued with the closest thing to an air of quiet satisfaction that a small silver disc can muster.
As ever, Stansfield has so seamlessly conjoined Philadelphia and Rochdale as to be able to sell records to women in either. It's a long time since she produced anything with the immediately addictive quality of All Around The World. Those of you who still have a milkman won't hear him whistling selections from Face Up any morning soon. But you can bet your boots that by this time next week his wife will own a copy, and he will have a smile plastered across his face which you couldn't hack off with a chisel.
Another prediction: billions of years hence, when the sun heaves and swells and scorches our poor planet to dust, two living things will remain scuttling upon the Earth's blackened crust: cockroaches, and Iggy Pop. The onetime Stooges singer having failed to do himself in, it's highly unlikely anything else is going to. Age cannot wither him - a vigorous and comprehensive regimen of self-abuse got there first - but in truth, custom has rendered him a wee bit stale. The bantamweight quintessence of raucous sleaze and nihilistic rock'n'roll refusal has turned a little easy on the ear since his self-mutilating heyday. So it's gratifying to report that, while Beat Em Up is no Raw Power or even Lust For Life, it is as nasty, mean-spirited and dirty-minded a blast of earache and bile as Iggy has spewed forth in donkey's years. It is unlikely to catch on among Lisa Stansfield's fanbase.
Another record which won't see Mrs Milkman queuing up outside HMV at dawn's first light is the new album from epic dance maestros Faithless, Outrospective. And more's the pity. House music, which tends to be no less functional than a thrust to the adrenal gland with a cattle prod, becomes soulful and richly textured in their hands. Maxi Jazz's lucid, velveteen raps are blended with snatches of balladeering from Zoe Johnston and the now familiar Dido (who happens to be the sister of band member Rollo - do they have other siblings with names like Fresca and Frodo?); plus echoes of both Pink Floyd at their early 70s peak, and the Pet Shop Boys, to whose melancholy 1987 masterpiece, Introspective, the title might well refer. This is Faithless's third album, and it often veers closer to its club origins than the previous two, but you don't need to be 16 and on drugs to enjoy it. Put away that halter top and that Lemsip.
Armchair clubbers will also be wriggling in their La-Z-Boy recliners over the second CD from Basement Jaxx, the hippest band any of us are likely to have actually heard of, let alone heard. On the evidence of Rooty, this South London duo stand a fair-to-plausible chance of following Fatboy Slim and Moby into every record collection west of Turkestan. Rooty is based around the jumpy two-step sound which grew out of UK clubland's garage genre, while anything else within arm's length - reggae, punk, mariachi, syncopated swing, nonsensical Bontempi organ rhythms, punk - is flung into the stockpot for the fun of it.
The result is reminiscent of a less po-faced Prince during his more inspired periods of lunacy. It will also ring a few bells with anyone who fondly recalls the first, undervalued album from S'Express. It's witty, flirty, catchy, good-time music, and if you're not in the right mood it will assuredly drive you to the brink of dementia and abandon you there without so much as the local taxi number. But the cover does feature some great pictures of a blond gorilla.
There is just enough space left to inform you that Wet Wet Wet singer Marti Pellow, the chap with the spiky hair and rictus grin who isn't Gary Rhodes or Nigel Kennedy, has a solo album out called, inevitably, Smile. I can safely say that if you adore Wet Wet Wet then (a) you will like this, and (b) you need to get out more. The bits which sound like Harry Nilsson are quite nice, though.
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