JUNKIE XL Billy Club (Roadrunner)
JUNKIE XL Saturday Teenage Kick (Roadrunner)
These are the debut single and album releases from Junkie XL a.k.a. Tom Holkenborg, last year voted Best House Music Producer and Best Act in prestigious music biz awards in his native Holland. Dismissed, rather unfairly I thought, in the NME as a Prodigy copyist, whilst I would walk a long way to avert my ears from that hideous ensemble (once a kiddie rave band, always a kiddie rave band) I find the music of Junkie XL quite, well, entertaining.
Not innovative or ground-breaking, mind you, despite the best guest efforts of Dino Cazares of the Kev-approved Fear Factory who slaps great slabs of metal guitar over many of Holkenborgs tunes, and Rude Boys (of Urban Dance Squad - who they?) rapping, which although fairly pointless at least avoids the excesses beloved of some exponents of the genre - are you listening, (hed)pe? Its blatantly, transparently obvious that Holkenborg is on a serious Chemical Brothers tip - track after track follows a photocopy of the same template that Tom and Ed have been using for years: thumping drum track, squealing analogue synth frenzy, the odd slice of sampled funk guitar to give proceedings a dab of groove, all topped off with a selection of hectoring voices. However, whilst the Chemicals use same as a starting point from which they progress through all manner of folky and psychedelic wonderment, with Junkie XL the template is the whole deal. Listen to "No Remorse" for a Chemical Brothers pastiche so chillingly accurate its almost a parody - heck, he even uses their trademarked ting-ting/ting-ting-ting-ting cymbal line atop the rising siren synth-note, the internationally recognised gesture announcing the imminent return of Big Beat and Mighty Riff. That said, its also mindlessly enjoyable, one of Junior XLs best tracks.
Elsewhere, reflect on how the Rotten Beats Mix of "Billy Club" sounds almost exactly like the generic techno music that accompanied the recent Schmirnoff cinema ads. It also turns up in modified form on the album, therein retitled "Dealing With The Roster" - another entirely predictable, dance-music-by-numbers goodie. The albums title track cleverly rips off the we-are-not-worthy metal God riff from Hüsker Düs "Celebrated Summer" (Bob Mould gets a writing and production credit, probably unknown to him!) - is this what the press release is referring to when it claims this track contains an outrageous steal of "Wrote For Luck" by the Happy Mondays? And "Metrolike" evolves into a stomping squidgy noise frenzy after that Rude Boy bloke gets bored with rapping over it.
Junkie XLs first album isnt bad, but unfortunately it betrays a highly visible debt to the work of a band that are much, much better. Hokenborg may represent the state of the Dutch house music art, but that dont mean bo when hes slugging it out against the big boys. Perhaps in future he should develop the techno/metal axis - one area that the Chemicals, perhaps correctly, appear to show no interest in - and definitely ditch the rapper: the best songs on these two CDs are all instrumentals. Perhaps hell then be deserving of more than just grudging respect.