Basement Jaxx

Global dance music has taken a hell of a beating over the past year or two. Once poised alongside rap to totally eclipse a rock-music field caught in the post-grunge doldrums, all sorts of white boys with guitars are starting to drown out the acid squeaks and once-novel DJ techniques. And as their past releases have borne out, artists ranging from Moby to Groove Armada have proved that contingency plans for post-club survival are always helpful for one's survival. On Kish Kash, U.K. house-music mavericks Basement Jaxx present their own, and it's bound not to sit well with purists and fans hoping for one--just one--more DJ anthem like "Samba Magic" or "Rendez-Vu." All the same, Kish Kash shows the duo's songwriting and production skills at their peak, and if these guys find the right front person, then Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis better send ninja assassins straight to South London, but quick.

Evidenced by the collaborations on Kish Kash, Jaxxmen Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe aren't waiting to be taken seriously. They almost get you to take 'N Sync singer JC Chasez seriously on the R&B-industrial stomper "Plug It In" and use Siouxsie Sioux to channel them to a Gothic plane far removed from their native house sound. But even on cameo-free tracks like the affecting down-tempo tearjerker "If I Ever Recover" and the jaunty Art of Noise-styled domestic distress of "Hot 'n' Cold," the Jaxx aim for a future pop sound with one foot on the dance floor and the other on the streets. Perched as securely as they are, they won't be knocked down anytime soon.

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Justin Hampton