Intelligent house music it used to make about as much sense as quiet heavy metal. But now the pioneering deep house hits of the late '80s/early '90s pad out today's chill-out compilations, and rave nostalgia is a boom industry, US-style house music already seems prematurely aged. While once it was the soundtrack to wild sexual abandon and massive drug abuse, these days it would barely wake a toddler. Hence its newly common prefix, dad house.
And the lead single from nine-year-old house trio, X-Press 2's first album 'Muzikizum' is dad house from its balding, shaven pate to its posh-but-understated trainers. 'Lazy' pinches the chord change from Alison Limerick's 'Where Love Lives' but imports David Byrne from `Talking Heads to add the required old man gravitas. It's this year's equivalent of 'Finally' by Kings Of Tomorrow a record as mystifyingly bland to those under 30 as it is thrilling to those of a more advanced age.
Fortunately, X-Press 2 - DJs Ashley Beedle, Rocky and Diesel are on more inclusive ground when they bin the guest stars and bring the noise. Their talent is to take house music cliches four-on-the-floor drums, testifying vocals, build-ups, breakdowns, yada yada and hone them into murderously efficient dancefloor destroyers.
Last year's single 'Muzikizum' (note clever-clogs palindromic title) could have bought down any house club from New York to Norwich at any point over the last 20 years. Previous 12-inches 'Smoke Machine' and 'AC/DC' perform the same trick, only with cheering crowds and honking noises respectively.
In this sense, X-Press 2 are like a dancefloor Oasis; great at pleasing the crowds, less good at innovation, and fatally weakened by their reverence for washed-up old rockers. They're better when hooked up with washed-up old electronica stars Dieter Meier, of Eighties Swiss eccentrics Yello, 'sings' on 'I Want You Back', the whole thing coming on like an inspired throwback to Kraftwerk's 'Music Non Stop'. But the other vocal track, 'Call That Love', really is lazy, a clapped out diva vehicle about peace, unity etc, while the closer, 'The Ending' is too 'Strings Of Life'-inspired for comfort.
'Muzikizum' seems to confirm that house music is now about nostalgia rather than futurism, a 'these you have loved'-style collection of tropes to remind the old folks about when they really used to 'ave it. X-Press 2 know what they're doing, but for a once black, homosexual, pilled-up music subculture, it's all gone rather straight.
Rating: 6 -- Alex Needham, April 2002, NME.com
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