UTAH SAINTS Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On (Echo)

As well it might. Utah Saints manage to cop some cred on the latest stage of their comeback trail by snagging soul legend Edwin Starr, then rather blow the effect by giving him a stack of sub-James Brown-isms to holler. Much grunting, snatches of chicken-scratching guitar and squidgy acid, but nevertheless "Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On" is not as inspirational as it wants to be. In fact it gets me rather nostalgic for the kind of borrowed brilliance Utah Saints used to routinely kick around during their early 90s heyday.


Although they were never exactly the equal of The KLF and their art terrorist agendas, memory suggests that there was usually something agreeably chunky about Utah Saints' early hit singles. Who could forget the Kate Bush and Eurythmics samples, or the trademark "U-U-U Utah Saints" chant? Now, nearly eight years after their debut, one of which was spent recording an album that was shelved by their then record company, the second Utah Saints long player has arrived.

Eight years is a longer time in dance music than just about any other genre. Dance music has fragmented, gone global and been franchised, the cult of the DJ has reached such gargantuan proportions that you can buy mix CDs in Woolworths and former hardcore heroes like Moby have become soundtrackers of work, rest and play. Utah Saints' music seems to have evolved at its own pace, somewhere outside this hothouse climate. The samples might have grown harder - Chuck D, Metallica and Iggy and the Stooges are all invoked at some point - and there's a pleasant undercurrent of systems music and ambient xylophones trickling through the album, usually with excerpts from a Michael Stipe interview not far away in the mix, but generally "Two" doesn't sound radically different from whatever your idea of a Utah Saints album might be.

Despite, or depending on your point of view, because of, that there is some great music here. The moment when Iggy elbows his way rudely into "Techknowledgy" is close to stunning, the song itself being a pleasant confection of early New Order b-side under attack from rampaging breakbeats. And "Three Simple Words", which scratches up moments from Joyce Sims' "Come Into My Life", is a velvet-toned synthetic soul classic.

If Utah Saints had managed to magick up "Two" a few years ago, around the time of their abandoned 1995 album, for example, I see no reason why some of the music here couldn't have become as ubiquitous as Moby's "Play" is today: it plays (pun unintended) similar tricks in nestling the familiar up against the alien. But released now, it stands as a pleasant but nevertheless inconsequential entertainment.