Luke Vibert is Wagon Christ, and though I have never been moved by the music he’s put out under his own name, I fucking love Wagon Christ. His work under his birth name — as well as his mid-’90s drum ‘n’ bass foray as Plug — has all of the accomplished crafting of his alter-ego, and I admit it has more heft musically. But it lacks what is perhaps the defining characteristic of each of the Wagon Christ albums, including Sorry I Make You Lush: unadulterated joy.
If you haven’t heard the tragically out of print Throbbing Pouch, released in the United States by Moonshine in 1995, or the brilliant Tally Ho and Musipal that followed in ’98 and ’01, Wagon Christ will be a revelatory experience for you. Vibert signed to Ninja Tune for Musipal, and he remained there for Sorry I Make You Lush, which is classic Ninja Tune fare: moody, unusual, but compulsively listenable. Think Q-Bert’s Wave-Twisters mixed with Nightmares on Wax’s Carboot Soul. Or maybe Coldcut’s Let Us Play mixed with Kid Koala’s Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Vibert’s compositions are playful while retaining their dedication to the groove, bouncing while giving the armchair listener enough unique sounds to keep them interested. It’s everything great headphone dance music needs to be: eminently entertaining, constantly evolving.
Wagon Christ albums are somewhat known for the appreciation they can garner from someone who is very, very high. This argument is not without its merits. But samples from Star Wars and Planet of the Apes don’t have to come off as campy, and synthesizers don’t have to be spacey here. Somehow, Vibert has made them come off as … cool. Or at least something closely resembling cool. And the song called “Sci-Fi Staircase” really does sound like a sci-fi staircase. It’s hard to fault Vibert for any of the seemingly out-of-vogue moves here, simply because they are used without the slightest intention of being anything more than a good time.
Sorry I Make You Lush has some less than thrilling moments, preventing it from being the event that earlier Wagon Christ records were. The vocal sample of “I’m Singing” can get repetitive, and “Sci-Fi Staircase” wears out its welcome a minute too soon. But for each minor misstep there are countless brilliant moments. “Quadra Y Discos” is dance music at its finest, and the synthesized beats of “The Funnies” are layered with some squeaky scratching and barking on beat that keeps the song moving to its funk-guitar breakdowns. “Kwikwidetrax” manages to bring the hip-hop style Big Beat of the mid-’90s into the new century, then move seamlessly into the funky break-beats that make the rest of the album so, well, awesome. Vibert is one of the best at what he does, and if you haven’t heard it done right, now is the perfect time to get on board.