Never, Never, Land


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Never, Never, Land Review

by John Bush

When the first UNKLE full-length dropped in 1998, some electronica fans were hoping that the supergroup featuring Mo' Wax founder James Lavelle and production wunderkind DJ Shadow would become to electronic music what Radiohead had become to rock: an act with commercial clout, artistic importance, and the rapt attention of music critics everywhere. Psyence Fiction instead engaged only a small coterie of curious listeners interested in the concept of epic trip-hop -- or the parade of star collaborations. UNKLE full-length number two, Never, Never, Land, finds James Lavelle with a new conspirator, singer/songwriter Richard File, a talented writer whose blasted yet sweet vocals unfortunately recall Dirty Vegas as much as Thom Yorke. Lavelle's vision for music is still in wide focus, replete with sweeping strings, driving breakbeat passages, and tender balladry (from File) as well as raging, angsty metal (from guest vocalist Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age). Massive Attack's 3D gets another chance to excoriate Blair and Bush on "Invasion," while Ian Brown shambles through another guest appearance on "Reign." Lavelle's interests and themes haven't changed drastically from Psyence Fiction, and with fewer star guests (anonymous contributions from Jarvis Cocker, Brian Eno, and Graham Gouldman notwithstanding), Never, Never, Land ends up with little more to say than the U.N.K.L.E. debut. [The U.S. release, which followed a year after the British, included two bonus-track remixes.]

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