Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Of the seemingly hundreds of sound-sources at work in Basement Jaxx songs, the horns are most liable to blow things wide open. The beats are a given, and the vocals always smoke, but the horns command something grander in the way they make good on the ideas of parades that are otherwise merely implied in the typical Jaxx swirl and din.


Crazy Itch Radio is Basement Jaxx's horniest album yet; it's also the group's least cataclysmic, due to house music's earthy, ethereal properties. Peering back at the smooth dance whoosh they began with, the two jumpy producers have taken a big breath this time out. There's a lot of air in play, pushed through gaggles of brass instruments or purposely left bare. Or, in more Jaxx-appropriate terms: Where past albums like Rooty and especially 2003's Kish Kash seemed intent on eating listeners' brains by way of shuddering rhythms and hyper-dense pastiche, Crazy Itch Radio seems content to just lick those brains and let them get off on the restraint.

Basement Jaxx is still Basement Jaxx, though, and it's all a matter of scale. Tracks like "Hush Boy" and "Take Me Back To Your House" wouldn't qualify as relaxed in any other context—the former crashes '70s funk guitar with epileptic horn blasts, while the latter finds an odd but fitting bond between banjo and sirens—but both have a straightforward quality that's refreshing once the new matter of scale has been adjusted for. The Eastern European stomp in "Hey U" signals a sort of systematic world journey evoked in many of the songs, which touch on country, soca, and R&B without losing that crucial Jaxx smack. And those leery of diminished scales should be more than happy with "Run 4 Cover," a hard, unhinged banger in the brain-eating mold of old.

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