Album Reviews: '64-'95 by Lemon JellyLemon Jelly’s latest comes with what amounts to a warning label: “This,” says a sticker on the packaging, “is our new album. It’s not like our old album.”
Boy, can you ever say that again. Anyone who discovered British electronica duo Nick Fraglen and Fred Deakin with their sunny 2002 album Lost Horizons will be startled and maybe even dismayed by ’64-’95, which more closely resembles the edgy, offbeat material of their early EPs and kitschy one-offs like their infamous remake of Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now." The very first track, “’88 aka Come Down on Me,” is a noisy rocktronica blowout worthy of The Crystal Method, with a very portentious sample from the underrated proto-grunge rockers Masters of Reality; that’s followed by “’68 aka Only Time,” which takes the sentimental vocals of Petula Clark and slows them down until she resembles a teary-eyed demon.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, ’64-’95 is as much a celebration of the sampler’s art as it is another conventional entrant into the Air/Bent/Zero 7 school of electronica for coffee bars and car commercials. Each track is named after the year in which the featured sample was originally released, making Lemon Jelly’s source material a focal point -- a gutsy choice since the duo’s critics will no doubt charge, as they often do with such records, that these are just clever exercises in loops and re-edits and hardly qualify as original music.
But anyone who takes such a view will be missing out. ’64-’95 isn’t as consistently sunny as Lost Horizons, but it’s deceptively lazy grooves and clever arrangements are just as rewarding. “’95 aka Make Things Right” (featured sample: American R&B star Monica) and “’75 aka Stay With You” (featured sample: British singer-songwriter duo Gallagher & Lyle) are among the prettiest things Lemon Jelly have ever recorded, while songs like “’79 aka The Shouty Track” (featured sample: obscure New Wave rockers The Scars) and “’64 aka Go” (no samples, but great use of an original spoken-word vocal by none other than William Shatner) find the duo exploring brand-new territory in some spiky, dramatic soundscapes. It’s still early in the year, but I guarantee you that this is as rich and entertaining a listen as any downtempo electronica album you’ll hear in 2005. Highly recommended. - Andy Hermann
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