Future Sound of London returned to active recording with The Isness, a record that trumpets a host of through-the-ages psychedelic influences -- from the Beatles to Gong to mid-'70s Pink Floyd to Spacemen 3 to the Chemical Brothers -- but does little to expand on any of those original inspirations. Early on, Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans begin trotting out the clichés; the opener, "Elysian Feels," has the back-masked strings of "Tomorrow Never Knows," a surprisingly AOR guitar solo, and a few Chemical Brothers breaks that don't sound very intriguing when dredged up eight years later. It only continues on "The Mello Hippo Disco Show," with a hippy-dippy vocal (one that fits the absurd title perfectly) floating over a series of funereal chords and the requisite Mellotron effects. "Yes My Brother" finds F.S.O.L. aping easy listening lynchpin Tony Hatch circa 1971 -- one of the influences not-so-curiously missing from the list -- but doing a surprisingly good job of it, even when the uncredited vocalist grasps for the Verve, but ends up in Simply Red territory. It's clear that Cobain and Dougans are still great producers; check out "Osho," an excellent, though rather obvious, piece of light blaxploitation funk grafted onto filmi strings. Too often, though, they're apparently interested only in referencing the past and sporting their rangy instrument roster: flügelhorn, glockenspiel, harp, flute, violin, cello, harmonica, etc. It's ironic that 30 years later, a record like this could make psychedelia seem as curmudgeonly as rock & roll seemed then.
AllMusic Review by John Bush