From the nation’s favourite dance act, comes the long awaited fifth album, featuring a host of big-name collaborations. Time to rejoice, then? One would be inclined to think so, but the following may come as a shock.
To All New Arrivals is, by Faithless‘ own standards, poor. There are many reasons for this, but one is glaringly obvious: Maxi Jazz is what makes this band special and he does not feature enough. On top of this, the string of collaborations is such that the work loses any continuity, and most importantly, the tunes just are not that catchy.
Seemingly dedicated to the children that band members Sister Bliss and Rollo have just borne, there is a theme in the lyrical content of innocence and purity. This is quickly recognisable in opening track and first single Bombs, with the chorus “so much love and so much pain, so much more than I thought this world could ever contain” serving to introduce the ‘new arrivals’ to the world they have just entered. This is in fact a highlight track, with Faithless playing to their strengths in thumping beats, ghostly rap interludes and simply augmenting these simple techniques.
Spiders… changes things, dominated as it is by a horrific sounding, child-esque rap, murmuring lines such as “I’m never going to bed, but if I do, hungry caterpillar’s coming too”. Even a sample of The Cure‘s Lullaby, or the ridiculously cute voice of a toddler at its climax, can remove the unpleasant sheen of this difficult number.
Things improve with the delightfully bouncy Music Matters, despite its slightly cheesy chorus, before the flaccid Nate’s Tune and the sentimental I Hope, featuring parental wishes for their newborn children, brings about a new lethargy in the album. The title track almost raises the standards with a blinding verse from Maxi, but a chorus of “To all new arrivals, we love you, we’d die for you”, almost too garish for words, lets it down completely.
The same exact trend is followed in following track Hope & Glory, and Cat Power‘s contribution on A Kind Of Peace, soothing as it is, does little to create the vivacity we have come to expect of this band. Some is restored with the brilliantly inventive The Man In You, unsurprisingly dominated by Maxi Jazz, a standout track that restores a sense of the slick, raw energy Faithless can create.
Closing instrumental number Emergency is indicative of To All New Arrivals as a whole; the band are clearly able to create some of the most sonically adept music anywhere, but they have forgotten how to write a hit. Ultimately, the album appears sadly lightweight; perhaps parental distractions have turned our heroes soft. In fact, this LP is almost the equivalent of a doting parent showing off newborn baby photos: you smile and not along, all the while feeling profoundly un-interested.