After their disastrously received second album Kokopelli, it looks like Kosheen have taken stock and returned to the drawing board. It’s something of a renaissance for them, as some of those reviews were vitriolic to the point of career threatening, bad enough for any band to question their judgment – yet here it looks like the back to basics approach has coincided with something of a return to form.
It doesn’t take long for the prosecution evidence to declare itself. The opening strains of the title track regain the conviction of Resist, a record that believe it or not was released six years ago. Sian Evans retains her unique vocal qualities – a love it or hate it voice perhaps, but truly original and instantly recognisable in its unusually full timbre.
Crucially Kosheen have rediscovered the right mixture to back it. Brooding break beats, underpinned by slowly moving chord structures and fulsome bass, the widescreen approach lending a moodiness that suits the band well. OK, so there’s no Hide U here to leap out and grab the listener, but enough to suggest they could be capable of repeating the trick sometime soon.
Evans carries the darkly tinged opening and the big beats of single Overkill, and takes a risk with a falsetto on Chances, a trick that suits her voice and offers brief hints of Sharleen Spiteri. Out Of This World looks far and wide for its influences, beginning as an intriguing semi-ballad but soon sporting a sitar. The jury’s out on the level of its success, as Evan’s vocals aren’t at their strongest here, but it shows Kosheen have the confidence to push the boat out a bit. Guilty (Original), meanwhile, comes in with a scattered drum intro that leads to something beamed in from the 1980s.
At sixteen tracks Damage weighs in too heavily, but manages to keep an underlying tension through much of its material – and the odd lyrical treasure. Under Fire notes “summer trees stripped and almost bare, it’s late September” – rather timely considering its release date – while the morose Cruel Heart mixes introspection with airy slow beats.
The signs are good, then, if Kosheen can come back from the battering they took four years ago with an opus far more commanding in nature, and they sound far more convincing in its musical and lyrical messages. Suddenly they’re relevant again, and though falling short of being the finished article this time perhaps, the next one could well spring a surprise.