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Given Scale's use of sounds that come from associable objects like fuel pumps and coffins, as well as its maker's unflagging devotion to recording methods of greater (and almost Jackass-like) extremes, it would be easy to prejudge the album as dry and joyless. One poor drummer was recorded under water, in a hot air balloon, and in a car driving 100 miles an hour -- hey, for kicks next time, why not record his finger cymbals as he grapples a shark wearing a Dick Cheney mask? Thankfully, if all you care about is the listenability of the results, all the contextual and conceptual stuff matters not a lick. Herbert is more upset about the state of the planet than ever, especially when it comes to the actions and inactions of Bush and Blair, but he has also made it known that he aimed to make an enjoyable, richly musical album full of melodies and multi-part harmonies. If the occasionally overcooked Goodbye Swingtime and the thoroughly constricted Plat du Jour were necessary phases to reach this place, so be it -- each of Scale's first four songs rival anything in his past, whether it's "Going Round," "Suddenly," his best remix work, or his productions on Dani Siciliano's Likes... and Roisin Murphy's Ruby Blue. It's clearly the most pop-oriented songs on the latter two releases that inform Scale the most. The most biting political line comes during the first verse of "The Movers and the Shakers": "I just don't know how to bring about your downfall/Damn fool, go figure out how those Christian bones can orchestrate shock and awe." However, for the remainder of the album, it's not difficult to forget about Herbert's motives and issues and take full delight in the shapely sounds, whether they're coming from a drum recorded in a cave, an orchestra recorded at Abbey Road, or vocalists recorded in Herbert and Siciliano's home. Though Herbert has outdone himself and matches his ambitions with his achievements, the songs are unmistakably his and Siciliano's, sounding like no one else, twisting and swinging and drifting with optimum vibrancy. Some of them are big and bold enough to be used in a stage production. All of them are 100 percent heavenly, even when they're dealing with loss.

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