The fact that Sister Bliss and co have done an exclusive deal with Tesco to sell all hard copies of their new album says as much about the current state of the music industry – where more people are likely to see the album in the supermarket than in an actual music shop – as it does about the status and appeal of Faithless as a mainstream, wholly digestible dance act. They say it’s “a bold move to reach out to as many Faithless fans both old and new” but surely the best way to do that would be to make it freely available everywhere?
This may well leave a sour taste in the mouth of traditionalists but with Maxi Jazz, Sister Bliss and Rollo having spent four years away after what was effectively the commercial failure of To All New Arrivals, the album seems set to rival 2004’s chart-topping No Roots. So a sell out it may be but it may also prove to be a shrewd, career-prolonging business move.
But, aside from the commercial politics, what about the music? Lead single Not Going Home, which just failed to dent the Top 40 (if anyone cares about such things any more), is the typical Faithless lead single in that it’s a euphoric dance track a la Salva Mea, We Come 1 and God Is A DJ. Maxi Jazz’s trademark vocal delivery, this time about a night out on the tiles, ends up being twisted, slowed down and sped up as an anthemic, trancey hook rises, falls and rises again.
The trio always ensure they are not simply another one-dimensional dance act, however, and The Dance once again covers various styles, genres and tempos. Feel Me has David Byrne-style vocals over a chugging electronic backing, deep dub reggae makes an appearance on the simple and short-lived Crazy Bal’heads, while Flyin’ High begins with stripped-back ambience and Maxi Jazz’s contemplative vocals before broadening out into a soaring epic.
Highlights include the soulfully ethereal beginnings of Comin’ Around that launch into another dancefloor handraiser, Dido‘s appearance on jovial and chunky club track Feelin’ Good and the blazing, rough then smooth hooks of anthem-in-waiting, Sun To Me. Downsides include the somewhat hackneyed synth lines of Tweak Your Nipple, which is by no means awful, just uninspiring, and the fairly nice but relatively limp Love Is My Condition.
You may know what to expect of Faithless by now and, while this album will win few new fans, it’s guaranteed to hit the spot with their current faithful. Impeccably crafted, broad in its remit and thoroughly creative, albeit hugely commercial – this is a strong, if unsurprising, offering.
Faithless have sold 12 million albums worldwide over the past 15 years, and this is sure to significantly increase that figure, regardless of whether they have taken the ultimate step in pushing their music as a mere product to be consumed along with Oreos and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.