Wednesday, June 2, 1999

Passive Attack

Posted By on Wed, Jun 2, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Every once in a while an album comes along with one track so brilliant and compulsive it threatens to streamroll every other song. The first few times you listen to it, you might think that Red Snapper’s Making Bones is just such a competent and enjoyable record, flattened and slack in the wake of the kickoff song. "The Sleepless." This blend of thumping bass, noirish horns and dazzling rap display by guest vocalist MC Det is a steamroller if ever there was one. "Crease," the techno-jazz track that follows "The Sleepless," doesn’t stand a chance.

But live with Making Bones for a while – let the carnival beats and horns on "Bogeyman," the strings on "Image of You," Allison David’s haunted diva vocals, the seamless and ingenious tempo shifts and, especially, the bass winding its way through the album live with you – and the whole of the album emerges from the huge shadow of its lead track. Like fellow Bristolians Massive Attack – though less aggressive – or akin to a more cohesive UNKLE, Red Snapper drifts around the edges of many genres: cabaret, jazz, techno, jungle, rap and dancehall reggae. All are embraced in various elegant admixtures, and the result is sometimes dark and moving ("Image of You"), or sometimes just moving ("Suckerpunch," "Like a Moving Truck").

And one track even rivals the sleek intensity of "The Sleepless," albeit very differently. Intertwining folk guitar, drowsy jungle beats, a smattering of piano and strings and phenomenally sonorous horns, "Spitalfields" winds up the most lasting pleasure of Making Bones. "The Sleepless" may beckon you into Red Snapper’s dark and thrilling world, but "Spitalfields" is the song possessing your mind late, late at night, when you can’t sleep.

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