Electronica duo Basement Jaxx creates some crazy sounds to make the up the rhythms and melodies of its songs—so much whirring, popping, heavy bass. The music is very detailed and careful. On Scars, the group’s fifth album in 10 years, the mood is consistently upbeat with a couple ballads thrown in. Sometimes the noise goes over the top for sheer, simple listenability because too many ideas are happening at once and they don’t all fit together. The Jaxx also culled a pretty wide variety of vocalists, each with his own style, which can further complicate the music.
Sam Sparro — who can get funky while singing about recycling or catching cotton mouth — appears on “Feelings Gone,” which is soulful and introspective while still torn from Basement Jaxx’s classic four-to-the-floor songbook. It’s difficult to break the sounds apart, but the track seems dominated by pulsing, distorted guitar chords, giving a rock edge. This is an example of where it all comes together for Basement Jaxx.
“My Turn” and “Twerk” featuring Lightspeed Champion and Yo Majesty respectively both have killer beats with some sticky bass, but the vocals throw the songs way off. Lightspeed Champion gets excessively emotive, at times singing melodically to a lone acoustic guitar, at others making a gravelly waling that sounds like a noise a ghost might make. It ruins a perfectly good bass line, as do the excessive vocal effects shellacked over Yo Majesty on “Twerk.” Yoko Ono is on a track called “Day of Sunflowers (We March On).” She fakes an orgasm; it’s painful to listen to.
“Stay Close,” a slow-jam with Lisa Kekaula from the BellRays, makes the whole album worth it. Her voice is incredible, and Basement Jaxx lets it shine with minimalist treatment, though sliding in some fun window-rattling bass in the refrain. It’s drifting and sentimental but brief enough that it does not become sickly or markedly alter the tone of the album.
Scars is a pretty good album, but Basement Jaxx may be better served by creating more with a single individual, rather than working with so many vocalists. It seems those singers are more interested in promoting their own voices than the music as a whole.