When UNKLE's Psyence Fiction was released in 1998, I was a senior in high school, and deeply concerned with collecting everything Radiohead-related I could get my hands on. At one out of the two keg parties I ever got invited to in my entire high school career, (if you can remember that far back, party soundtracks were CDs, or -- if the host was truly enterprising -- mix CDs), someone put on Psyence Fiction, which even at background music level perked my ears up when I heard Thom Yorke's unmistakable guest vocal on "Rabbit In Your Headlights."
In college, long after my Radiohead obsession had subsided to a much more reasonable appreciation, Psyence Fiction remained a frequent go-to soundtrack for it's-due-tomorrow late night paper writing. And still, with only a vague awareness of their existence, I let subsequent UNKLE releases pass me by for the better part of a decade.
I never spent much time thinking about why then, but reflecting on it now I realize that I probably never went looking for more UNKLE for the same reason Psyence Fiction ended up playing on the stereo that night in 1998: it played like a really good mix CD. With different guest lineups on the newer records, and nobody playing them at parties, there was just too little to grab me again.
It wasn't until I saw the video for "Burn My Shadow" off UNKLE's War Stories that my interest was renewed -- in a big way.
War Stories doesn't play like a good mix CD. It plays like a record. UNKLE mastermind James Lavelle, almost 10 years after his first commercial success and after numerous label and lineup changes, has really hit his stride. Despite the fact that the record still boasts an all-star cast (Josh Homme and Ian Astbury headlining, see production videos here and here), there is a steadfast captain steering the ship, and it shows.
The aforementioned "Burn My Shadow" featuring Ian Astbury is a highlight, as is the Josh Homme track "Restless," and "Mayday," which features The Duke Spirit. But the record holds up best when taken in all at once, and I encourage you to hear for yourself. It's streaming in full at MySpace.
Try it. I bet you'll like it.
Get "Burn My Shadow" ft. Ian Astbury at zSHARE.