Morcheeba

The Antidote

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Caressing the listener's cheek with a pleasant, somewhat psychedelic smile, Morcheeba's The Antidote finds the band reborn as a cross between Burt Bacharach and the Jefferson Airplane. There's still that Morcheeba slyness, but the overall sweetness and comfort-giving attitude in these new songs -- plus the band's fresh attitude toward bold, acoustic orchestration -- bring them closer to the world of Swing Out Sister. In other words, the formerly trip-hoppy group is going to lose as many fans as they gain with this one. "Electronica" doesn't apply much anymore and departed vocalist Skye Edwards is replaced by former Noonday Underground member Daisey Martey, a powerfully voiced singer who can still emphasize the subtle playfulness in the hip lyrics (best of the lot: "Vacations in Europe, sensational scents/We made the most of your inheritance" from the excellent "Ten Men"). Funk is forgotten but there's still some soul in Morcheeba's sound, along with that adventurous attitude they've always had. Just when the album threatens to become an Austin Powers soundtrack, "Like a Military Coup" dissolves into "Living Hell," Dark Side of the Moon-style. Despite their ominous titles, both tracks are breezy but brainy "feel-good" pop. This balancing of hippie psychedelia and brassy pop would be a disaster in less crafty hands, but the group pulls it off with sparkle and wit. Conjuring the spirits of Bill Withers, Shirley Bassey, and Grace Slick while retaining that Morcheeba cleverness, The Antidote is both a total curveball and pleasant surprise.

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