23 Skidoo – 23 Skidoo

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

The legendary 23 Skidoo, contemporaries of early post-punk industrialists like Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, are little known these days. Fusing tribal rhythms and Einsturzende Neubauten scrap metal with free-form jazz-funk, they were one of those bands who must have known they would be filed under “influential”, rather than “rich” or “famous”, when they finally decided to call it a day.

While the band disappeared in the mid-80s, its members found time to establish themselves as hip-hop producers and remixers, working with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Seal and Ice-T, as well as upcoming stars such as Deckwrecka, Skitz, Rodney P and Roots Manuva, who all perform on this comeback album.

From the opening few seconds of FREEZE FRAME, it becomes clear how 23 Skidoo influenced bands like Meat Beat Manifesto and Consolidated – hip-hop beats and smoky jazz abound. However, while Jack Dangers and Mark Pistel infuse their projects with a sense of menace and foreboding, this sounds fairly tame. Sweet sax and laid-back grooves, punctuated by dub heavy bass, make for an album that would sound way out of place among the industrial bands of today.

While most people will be thankful that the scrap metal percussion fails to make an appearance, the jazz just gets noodlesome to the point of irritation. KENDANG sounds like an outtake from the excruciating nightclub scene in David Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY, while the single DAWNING (featuring Pharoah Sanders on sax) should probably have been called “Yawning”.

The only time this fusion really works is when a guest rapper arrives to inject some invective into the proceedings (WHERE YOU AT, DIRTY LO) – the vocals at least serve to provide some focus and energy. Despite occasionally creating an atmosphere of some intensity (MELTDOWN), the majority of this album is far too directionless and flimsy for me.

Skidding rapidly downhill, I’m afraid.

2 stars