Paul and Ross Godfrey's reign of misogyny and acoustic banality regretfully continues with their second post-Skye Edwards sacrilege. This is not a Morcheeba record.
It's a little-discussed fact, but the Doors actually released two whole albums after Jim Morrison's untimely passing, both under their original name. Neither faired remotely as well commercially as their predecessors and, thus, hardly anyone remembers they exist. They are forgotten with good cause. The band’s dynamic was crippled beyond repair without Morrison's powerful guiding vision front and center. Likewise, the Apostles simply couldn't keep it together after Jesus was brutally murdered. Their reunion tours were gutless farces ripe with sexist and homophobic hip-hop posturing, and Matthewianity was a joke. Sure, New Order pulled off their continuation after Ian Curtis killed himself, but they're special. They're an extremely rare example of a band not just surviving on the casino circuit, but actually succeeding tremendously beyond the loss of their frontman. More importantly, they had the balls to change their name instead of taking the easy way out and milking the legacy for all it's worth.
Skye Edwards was the gorgeous face and sultry, cathartic voice of Morcheeba for their first four studio albums. Of those, 2000's Fragments of Freedom was their only misstep. Their first and fourth albums were great. And 1998's Big Calm is an undeniable chill-out classic, on par with the early works of Portishead and Massive Attack in trip-hop circles. Sure, the instrumentals of Paul and Ross Godfrey provided the launching pad, but Edwards’ shaved head and breathy, intimate vocals were the beacon steering the whole project to its rightful place in history.
Over time, the rigors of touring and Paul Godfrey's desire to stylistically dominate their aesthetic took its toll on the band and the relationships within. While supporting 2002's Charango, the Godfrey brothers and Edwards weren't on speaking terms and tension soon reached the breaking point. The Godfreys pulled rank and booted Edwards from the band she established. Since they believed they were Morcheeba, for their next LP they merely replaced her with a blatant sound-alike in the form of Noonday Underground's Daisy Martey.
2005's The Antidote received modest critical praise, but the justified backlash against their dishonest new sound saw Martey martyred in no time flat during another difficult tour. She would later sue the Godfreys for sexual harassment. Paul Godfrey shrugged off their second painful firing under the excuse that they merely "no longer wanted to share any power with a permanent singer." That line of supremely egotistical reasoning obviously signals their inability to consider Morcheeba an actual band instead of their own chauvinistic vanity project.
Thus, the second banal "Morcheeba" travesty sans Skye Edwards features not one but five different vocalists, and none of them is within swinging distance of the original diva. Where Charango greatly benefited from the work of Lambchop's Kurt Wagner, the legendary Slick Rick and Pace Won (formerly of Outsidaz), Dive Deep is chock-full of nobody amateurs. Like The Antidote before it, their sixth full-length reveals their instrumentals, largely created by Paul Godfrey this time around, to be sugary, hippy-dippy, over-produced nothings without Edwards’ perpetually poignant lyricism and dulcet tones so soothing they could make the Middle East hit the beanbag chairs. The emphasis on acoustic guitar also continues, keeping the cheesy Renaissance Fair vibe intact.
The opening "Enjoy the Ride" seems to contain elements of every Morcheeba album made, including the same turntable beat stutter they've had on loop since Who Can You Trust. Judy Tzuke's lyrics try too hard to be relevant and moving, basically reconstituting a Bill Hicks line into song form. The Leonard Cohen parody Thomas Dybdahl croons over on "Riverbed" cements the aesthetic of that track squarely in the bad part of the '80s. "Flowers" is the worst, though, with an imbecilic "yo girl" flow and a vapid female-sung chorus dribbling nonsense about flowers coming in black and white that makes it sound like a Pras throwaway (and even Pras' singles were throwaways).
In all fairness, Dive Deep does have the odd moment of interest. "Run Honey Run" has a nice alternative country progression which drives its chorus, and a good build-up to support its bass heavy hip-hop beat. Bradley's vocals there are easily the most memorable on the record. It’s a shame that is his only appearance. The few bare instrumentals are fine enough too, but being sandwiched between gaggles of less inspired collaborations places them in an unflattering light. They’re far from the timely interludes Morcheeba once had. This album has no focus, so the instrumentals are left hanging on like scabby Band-Aids after a swim.
Though the Godfreys obviously despise giving women any credit, Skye Edwards was the glue that brought Morcheeba together. She made their sound more than the collection of its many parts, and all their fans know this. Sure, Paul and Ross may have technically founded the project, but their first single garnered them no label interest. It wasn't till they met Skye at a party and got her on their demo that Morcheeba actually got signed and became what it was. Under any other name, Dive Deep would merely be a poor man's crack at a Zero 7 album (bordering on destitute), but continuing to strangle the Morcheeba legacy with this stagnant tripe is nothing short of a sacrilege. Just give up and start something new, guys. We aren’t ever going to fall for it.