Thursday, 5 April 2012

REVIEW: Rocketjuice And The Moon - Rocketjuice And The Moon

There are two ways people view Damon Albarn. Some are impressed with the way he has broke free from the restrictions of Britpop and has since been on a non stop mission to explore many different genres from all over the world via his many musical ventures. Some people on the other hand wish he would stop fucking about with his side projects, stop teasing people and make a new Blur record. However as strange as it seems, one of the most legendary and iconic bands to have ever come out of the UK is now just another thing Albarn does. 

Rocketjuice And The Moon is Albarn's latest musical outing and sees him joined by Red Hot Chili Pepper bassist Flea and legendary Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen, who was also part of The Good The Bad And The Queen with Albarn a few years ago. This time round however the Blur legend applies his skills in a different way, taking a seat behind the keys and rarely contributing vocals. But although this is an album built on loose funk jams and a great deal of improvisational magic, these elements are given a touch of accessibility due to Albarn's instinctive songwriting skills. The 17 tracks here are mostly short in length but as phrases reoccur throughout the record, as a whole it makes for a sprawling piece of work. Things begin with '12345' and its supertight rhythm, disciplined bass and noises resembling toy guns before the highlight 'Hey Shooter' kicks in with an elasticated bassline, a casual purred vocal from Erykah Badu, smart Gorillaz-esque melodies, a great contribution from the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, and more delicious rhythm patterns from Allen. The drummer is pretty much at the centre of the project, his skillful beats providing a perfect companion to Flea's slapping and plucking. 

'Lolo' continues to add more ingredients (and a well-fitting rap) to the musical backdrop of 'Hey Shooter', while the brief 'Night Watch' is jazzy afrobeat with bizarre hints of electronica. Industrial bleeps and squelches accompany the loose 'Forward Sweep' before 'Follow Fashion' matches the sunny, exotic vibe with an appearance from Fatoumata Diawara who also contributes to the later 'Benko'. Elsewhere Ghanian rapper M.anifest lends his words to 'The Unfadable' and 'Dam(n)', adding an element of hip hop to the already potent brew, but also ends up being a little overexposed on this record. With so many guest vocalists it's a relief to hear the weary beauty of 'Poison' where Albarn provides a wonderful vocal and one of those unmistakeable melodies that only he can craft.

'Extinguished' seems to be very improvisational where the quirky keyboards and random outbursts of synth are concerned, while 'Rotary Connection' returns to the prime funk with some irresistible percussion and more strange keys. 'Check Out' learns from the production values of dub reggae, 'There' showcases Albarn's effortless musical instincts as he unleashes an array of strange keyboard hooks, and 'Worries' could almost be a Blur instrumental. 'Fatherless' uses repetition to impressive effect before The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble again lend a hand to 'Leave Taking', which combines the album's best elements to finish off the record with another highlight. 

If you're not keen on funk this album is not for you. If you don't take kindly to improvisation and spectacularly loose jamming then you may also want to steer clear of this record. Don't expect anything even remotely resembling 'Parklife', because this is Damon exploring completely different areas and coming out of it with a rather odd bag of musical treats as well as adding another fine project to his extensive CV. Is there anything this man can't do? That's probably what he's trying to find out himself as he continues his diverse musical journey. 8.

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