U.N.K.L.E. Never Never Land

[Virgin; 2003]

Styles: experimental ambient electro, hip-hop
Others: DJ Shadow, DJ Krush, Portishead

Remember U.N.K.L.E.? They were all the fuss back in ’98, when their debut album Psyence Fiction was released. Everybody looked forward to that release because one of the "unkles" was DJ Shadow, who released his astonishing and revolutionary debut album Entroducing  two years earlier. UNKLE was a co-effort between Shadow and his Mo’Wax label boss James Lavelle. Another reason why this album was highly anticipated had to do with the guest singers featuring: the Verve’s Richard Ashcroft, Metallica’s Jason Newstedt and a pre-OK Computer Thom Yorke on the superb Rabbit in your Headlights.

Sadly however, Psyence Fiction wasn't really worth all the fuss. It included a few nice songs, but it certainly wasn't as memorable as Entroducing.

And now, over five(!) years later, a new UNKLE album has appeared. It is called Never Never Land, and DJ Shadow didn’t contribute to this record, so Lavelle asked his buddy Richard File to be the new "unkle."

File is quite a good replacement for DJ Shadow, because Never Never Land sounds an awful lot like Entroducing. The somewhat melancholic piano loop on "In A State" (which is, by the way, the most memorable song on this record), the scary samples on "I Need Something Stronger," and the signature DJ Shadow-breakbeat loop on "What Are You to Me"-- it all sounds very familiar.

It’s funny to see that Never Never Land makes the same flaws that Psyence Fiction had back then. Never Never Land is, in essence, a very well produced and balanced album, but it lacks when it comes to the more "‘mystic" parts that make up a good record. Those parts that restrain you from forgetting about the record after a first listen. Or after writing a Tiny Mix Tapes review, in my case.

1. Back And Forth
2. Eye 4 An Eye
3. In A State
4. Safe In Mind
5. I Need Something Stronger
6. What Are You To Me
7. Panic Attack
8. Invasion
9. Reign
10. Glue
11. Inside