Musicians whose debut albums succeed almost always face a backlash with their sophomore efforts--particularly if they don't stick to the formula that worked the first time around. Most of the print reviews of Basement Jaxx's brand-new second full-length, Rooty (Astralwerks), have been ecstatic, but I've heard a lot of serious dance fans gripe about it, indicting the London duo of Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton for abandoning the relatively straightforward house of their previous releases, the 12-inch compilation Atlantic Jaxx Recordings (1998) and the sterling Remedy (1999). (A "real" house track is supposed to be seven minutes long, with an intro and outro of pure beat to earmark it for a dance-floor DJ, not a radio jock; Rooty's 11 tunes clock in at under 43 minutes, and make liberal use of pop-influenced song structures.) But Basement Jaxx's earlier records, while staying true to house music's traditional form, were hardly orthodox. They topped the steady beat with unusually dense, jostling arrangements, full of visceral irruptions and squiggly, cartoony production trickery--listening to them could feel like dancing in a crowded nightclub and seeing someone get punched out of the corner of your eye, only to end up distracted by a dancer with, like, the best moves ever. The new album applies that disjunctive approach to the beats and song structures as well as the arrangements, creating a similar combination of exhilaration and dread--except this time you're at a rowdy summer block party, not a club. "SFM (Sexy Feline Machine)" and "Crazy Girl" cross Prince circa Sign 'o' the Times with two-step garage; "Jus 1 Kiss" is an Ibiza beach-ball anthem as cotton-candy sweet as a Paul Oakenfold cut but not as pandering. "Where's Your Head At" revisits the "Hoover sound" of early-90s Belgian techno, with a shout-along chorus worthy of Slade. And "Romeo," Rooty's first single, is a saucy, radio-friendly gem the Donnas ought to cover any day now. If clubland's tastemakers can't appreciate this stuff, they deserve to miss out on the fun the rest of us will be having. Opening the show is Frankfurt disco-house DJ Ian Pooley. Thursday, July 12, 10 PM, Rednofive, 440 N. Halsted; 312-733-6699.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rafael Fuchs.