Jacking the Kitchen Sink In
One of the most fundamental rules of music journalism (along with such tried-and-tested tenets as “Buy their PR people drinks”, “Never turn down free music” and “It’s not plagiarism if their magazine doesn’t find out”) concerns the allure of record covers, and why the discerning music critic should never allow themselves to be suckered by a good one.
Those of you who’ve been following my reviews (hi mum!) will know that I am terribly bad at this, as I feel that the artist should be involved with the packaging as much as the contents; an album being in my eyes a much more personal and organic artistic statement then, say, a Hollywood blockbuster with its attendant trailer, poster and video cover designs. From this we can deduce several things about me: I listen to a lot of music by artists who are too good for the mainstream (ie. don’t sell enough CDs to employ designers), I am appealingly naive when it comes to the music business, and I am easily ensnared by the graphic.
Trust It‘s eye-watering cover plays with the symbolism of the needle by having the business end of a turntable arm seemingly planted straight into a man’s artery. Quite aside from the obvious music/drug (and music as drug) references, the image is enticing in a rather gruesome way because it implies painful sacrifice on behalf of Vito Lucente (aka Junior Jack), pain gladly suffered in the name of bringing his personality to you pure from the source. I could make an attempt at punning my way into a reference to legendary techno/house label Source here if I felt this album warranted such haphazard associations, but sadly it just ain’t so, Jack.
True, I can still remember the first time I heard the enervating genius of “Thrill Me” (present here in slightly rejigged form) and that was over two years ago in Paris. Yet the resounding majority of what’s on offer here is nothing like as memorable as the hysteria-inducing looped synth hook of that track, most of it being both simultaneously too long (five-plus minutes being the norm) and too short on ideas. A filtered house feel predominates (indeed the first time I heard “Thrill Me” I assumed it was French), yet one that is far closer to Vito’s other project, the huge-in-the-UK-last-summer-but-terribly-commercial-and-rather bland Room 5, than it is to the brain-manglingly twisted power of “Da Funk”. Guiltiest are “Stupidisco”, which was probably meant to be ironic but is nowhere smart enough for that, and other single “E Samba”, which substitutes Latin chanting for that synth noise but otherwise basically rips off “Thrill Me”, including having an identical-sounding bass loop.
Lucente does try to make the album a more varied experience than some of his house contemporaries, and the darker electro stylings of “Do It” and “Depression” which follow “Thrill Me” towards the end of the album have a satisfyingly rawer, uneasy feel to them that draws the listener in rather than slathering them in sucrose. A suite of tracks in the album’s second quarter blend in live, jazzy sax and piano in a bid to come off like a more uptempo St. Germain, but whilst pleasant they lack the complexity, musicality or intensity to be much more than mediocre bar music.
No, Lucente has things bang to rights when, on slowly building, thrash-guitar-wielding standout “The Darkness”, he identifies the latter as being at the root of his appeal. He should abandon the conventionally popular and concentrate on injecting grooves as glistening and black as vinyl into his being. Do I have any other advice for him? Yes: sampling D’Angelo’s “Feel Like Making Love” is a crime against humanity. Oh, and getting someone to add a vocal to one of your instrumental house tracks is going against one of dance music’s most fundamental laws, but I imagine he knew this and simply forgot in his excitement at getting The Cure’s Robert Smith on board (it wasn’t worth it, natch). Not a bad record as such, but nowhere near as arresting as its cover art.
// Notes from the Road
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