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UNKLE - "War Stories"   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Friday, 15 June 2007

a frustrating, flawed experiment..

Ten years into their career, the less than prolific UNKLE take a break from remixing every record ever made and producing countless near-identical DJ mix sets to finish crafting their third album, the relatively swift “War Stories” (at only three and a half years since album numiber two).


War Stories” occupies the middle ground between the beat heavy debut “Psycene Fiction” and the slicker, wider “Never Never Land” to create a hybrid of the two styles. Strings rise and fall and beats clatter and tumble over each other to create a massive sound : from the start of ‘Chemistry’, a heavy riff-lead explosion that sounds like the Chemical Brothers wrestling Oasis, to the final moments of ‘When Things Explode’, the album is a more fluid, organic, human record that sounds like it was made by people instead of machines in a unholy tussle of epic motifs and possibly dated, busy beats that sound very much like three of their DJ Mix albums being played simultaneously.


Unlike the relatively linear, “Never Never Land”, “War Stories” is a dirty record, made of drums and squelchy bass, and moves away from the exhausted sterile misery of its predecessor to a grittier sound. The proliferation of guest vocalists (with appearances from Massive Attack and The Cult) dilute the overall feel of the record – the cohesive, united front created by main vocalist Richard File is replaced by a disjointed compilation of alternating vocal flavours and styles that make the completed record a frustratingly uneven experience : jarring in feel and temperament from vocalist to vocalist and song to song.


And that’s not to say that this isn’t a good record – “War Stories” is accomplished and competent and worthy of standing up the rest of their work, but it’s also, for the first time, a sideways step into spotwelding extra personalities over existing music tracks, where there really is no need to do so except possibly to draw in floating voters through the use of an impressive selection of high profile names to generate sales. It’s a frustrating step because there is already plenty of talent within the band as is. They don’t need any more to add to the existing pool.


Finally, “War Stories” is a lesser record than the exceptional “Never Never Land” and a flawed experiment that may, ultimately in time, reward the listener with repeated exposure. In the meantime, chalk it down to experience and file as just another UNKLE Record.


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