Saturday, February 09, 2008

UNKLE - War Stories

UNKLE - War Stories

War Stories (CD)

Though their first release bore DJ Shadow's distinctive imprimatur, UNKLE continues as James Lavelle and friends now. On War Stories, those friends include The Cult's Ian Astbury on two tracks, as well as Josh Homme, and Massive Attack's Robert "3D" Del Naja. Despite its moniker, War Stories isn't really an explicit protest album. If anything the album's most unequivocal reference to current events, "Persons and Machinery," feels shoehorned into the disk, out of place within the generally more somber proceedings. Or maybe it just pops where most of the disk rocks. After a brief and wholly unnecessary intro, War Stories launches with “Chemistry,” an instrumental track, which foreshadows the grittier sound the album largely rattles along with. Ian Astbury makes the most impressive appearance; providing searing vocals on the thunderous "Burn my Shadow." Not all of these tracks pack the same visceral punch, but many do wend their way into your cranium after a few spins. Josh Homme owns the twisty, handclappy "Restless," but 3D's presence is better reflected in his sanguinary cover art, than on the wispy "Twilight." Lavelle contributes his own vocals to the ratcheting slither of "Price You Pay." And Gavin Clark's droning, loping vocals prove effective on the drowsy "Keys to the Kingdom," where on each chorus, Clark lifts his voice for a passage of optimistic if still paralyzed yearning. – Robert Stribley

This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 26 (Fall 2007)

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