U.N.K.L.E. – War Stories
Surrender All (7/24/07)
Rock / Experimental / Electronic
I have to admit, I went into this album unfairly hoping for the heydays of Psyence Fiction when DJ Shadow’s influence could still be felt in the group. However, I was pleasantly surprised by War Stories. Though there is a lot of genre-hopping on this, the third-full length release by James Lavelle’s U.N.K.L.E. project, electro takes a backseat, and rock is pushed more to the forefront than ever before.
Lavelle has done another superior job at integrating the right high-profile guest vocalists with the correct instrumental tracks for the album. As with the two previous U.N.K.L.E. releases, there is a dizzying array of both up-and-coming artists and well-known staples in the music community presented in the set.
The first single, “Broken”, features Clayhill vocalist, Gavin Clark, and was a smart choice. It’s a vibrant pop track that also oversees guitar riffs by Matthew Caw of Nada Surf. It’s probably my favorite song on the album.
My preferred combination of tracks on War Stories landed somewhere in the middle of the album with “Persons & Machinery” and “Twilight”, as the two songs meld perfectly together. The delicate vocals and electro wash on “Persons & Machinery” feature Los Angeles art-rock trio Autolux, as the track then lends itself beautifully into 3D’s (of Massive Attack) airy whisperings on “Twilight”. Both tracks have an overall ethereal quality.
Queens of the Stone Age groupies should definitely appreciate the heavy bass effect on the Josh Homme cameo for “Restless”. Also, I was surprised to learn that “Hold My Hand” is James Lavelle’s vocal debut. He definitely holds his own on this track and also later on “Morning Rage”, when he duets with Richard File. Both tracks are a worthwhile listen.
Ian Astbury, former frontman of The Cult, appears with bassist Jeordie White (a.k.a. Twiggy Ramirez) on “Burn My Shadow”, and again on the album’s last track, “When Things Explode”, a sweepingly extravagant and brooding end to the album.
While War Stories is an overall good album, it misses the mark of being great. U.N.K.L.E. will be embarking on a tour this summer in support of the album, with stops in Japan, the U.K. and Europe.