Sunday, January 4, 2009

Radio Retaliation - Thievery Corporation (SCQ Detox 1 of 2)

Radio Retaliation

Thievery Corporation
ESL Records.

SCQ Rating: 48%

Long have Thievery Corporation been accused of catering their chill-out talents to the musically-inexperienced, from their outlandishly whored-out ‘Lebanese Blonde’ to The Richest Man in Babylon’s foothold on the downtempo industry. Much of the duo’s criticism stems from their tourist-take on world music, as they borrow heavily from Indian, Jamaican, Middle-Eastern and South American genre staples. And while their broad use of ethnic otherness has resulted in several highlights, Radio Retaliation does little to deter the usual stereotype that fans of this Washington D.C. duo are commonly professional pedestrians who care little for electronica, or authentic world music.

It’s easy to see how such a strange stereotype could have truth behind it, as Thievery Corporation have always been best at creating music that offers a minimum of substance beneath the gloss. ‘Mandala’ may feature Anoushka Shankar on sitar and ‘Vampires’ might boast a meaty Fela Kuti cameo but neither give depth to their respective international scene, or push Thievery Corporation to new challenges. This lack of evolution is disappointing given the advances accomplished on 2005’s The Cosmic Game, which found the band (in cooperation with some of indie-rock’s elite) crafting some original takes on their usual, intercontinental palette.

Without doubt, the most spellbinding moment on disc is closing track ‘Sweet Tides’; a druggy Brian Jonestown Massacre guitar line melded to standard breakbeats and sung over by LouLou. It could soundtrack long roadtrips, vacation getaways and just about any movie ending one can imagine. Yep, Thievery Corporation haven’t changed much since ‘Lebanese Blonde’; same technique, same crossover potential, same criticisms. Only on Radio Retaliation, it sounds as if all signs of development have settled into this benign mix of late 90s connect-the-samples. Despite their global awareness, I think the world has moved on.

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