Faithless never really did anything wrong. Maybe it’s just me that’s forgotten about them, or maybe history is somehow clouding my judgement, but to my surprise I find myself approaching this review with a bit of trepidation.
Fifteen years ago this week, the dance superstars released their third album Outrospective. After the slightly confused debut Reverence (1996) and the traditionally difficult second album Sunday 8pm (1998), this was definitely their best yet, so what reason could I possibly have for this trepidation?
It opens with Donny X, a pleasant instrumental electronic piece which ends with Maxi Jazz giving a few introductory words before the lovely Not Enuff Love begins. It’s a bit trippy, which seems somewhat unnecessary for such a sweet song, but maybe that’s just me.
If you were paying attention in the early summer of 2001, We Come 1 would have caught your attention, and so it is on the album, although for once it possibly suffers a little by appearing in its full eight minute glory. It’s great – those backwards kicks are enormous – but it feels as though it all happened a very long time ago now.
But I still feel as though I’m forcing myself to be critical, especially as the lovely Zoë Johnston turns up to deliver the vocal on the adorable Crazy English Summer, a song which has subconsciously haunted me for years since I left the UK. It feels as though it’s designed to remind me personally of the rained off barbecues and long walks in the countryside of the 1990s.
Muhammad Ali is the one track on here that I’ve never entirely understood – ultimately I think Maxi Jazz‘s relationship with the boxing legend is different to mine, and the disco backing doesn’t quite work for me.
Machines R Us is next (technically, that’s a backwards R, but I can’t actually be bothered finding the keystroke for that right now), continuing the disco theme slightly. It’s an instrumental, which is pleasant, and carries us through to Dido‘s inevitable appearance with the sublime single One Step Too Far. This in turn drifts gently into the introduction of one of the best dance tracks on here, the brilliant Tarantula, definitely one of the best songs about spiders in recent times if nothing else.
You do have to wonder what on earth Maxi Jazz is on about sometimes though – Giving Myself Away is nice, but has somewhat inscrutable lyrics. The instrumental Code is really sweet too, and carries us through to two more appearances by Zoë Johnston, firstly on the anthemic and understated Evergreen. This is so good that it had me wondering if Johnston had ever released a solo album. As it happens, she has, so I may be checking that out soon. Anyway…
I had my doubts, I confess, but by the end of Outrospective I’m finding I still love it every bit as much as I did fifteen years ago. Some parts have dated, definitely. But the elements that made it great are still very much there. This is definitely Faithless‘s finest hour.
If you can still find a copy of the double CD version of Outrospective/Reperspective, that’s the one to go for.