It would have been easy for Junkie XL (the man behindthe Elvis remix A Little Less Conversation) to have released an albumof Moby-like tracks – catchy big-beat loops and occasional vocals.But Tom Holkenborg (JXL’s real name) has done the opposite, producing analbum which is so diverse that its sense of coherence is impressive.
Radio JXL: A Broadcast from the Computer Hell Cabinwill gain sales from broad demographic, since it must hold the all-timeworld record for “feat.” tracks. A wide array of artistes perform, many ofthem old-time, including Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode), GaryNuman, Saffron (Republika), Robert Smith (The Cure), TerryHall (The Specials), Grant Nicholas (Feeder), and Chuck D(Public Enemy).
The most immediately impressive piece is the singleCatch Up To My Step. Solomon Burke‘s vocal and the heavy bass andguitar riffs make it the most danceable track. Apart from this only TerryHall’s Never Alone and Peter Tosh‘s Don’t Wake Up Policemen reach anylevel of hip-moving groove, driven by ska and dub four-to-the-floor.
Most other highlights depend on song-writing more thanproduction. Grant Nicholas’ Broken has soothing and emotional big beats andis one of the best songs on the album, matched only by Robert Smith’s lovelyelectro/Kraftwerk Perfect Blue Sky. Dave Gahan‘s Reload takes adarker approach and comes a close second.
Chuck D raps up a storm over vocoders and big hip-hopthuds in Access to the Excess, his flow still sounding good 10 years on. Butone flow that hasn’t dated as well is Saffron’s. Her high-energyself-written tracks fit in to the album (impressive – since their productionis so ’90s Republika-like), but her punk-like vocal is a little misplaced.
Radio JXL isn’t a dance album, although it has somequality dance vibes on it. Neither it it obsessed with cutting-edgeproduction – Holkenborg has the sense to make the focus the songwriting. Inthe end it’s the right production for the right song, and thankfully most ofthe songs are right themselves. The XLent Junkie has pulled it all into adiverse album that holds together, and which won’t bore quickly.