Notorious for their monotonous concoctions of musical fusion, the eighth studio release from trip-hop pioneers, Morcheeba, is no exception. Lead by the soothing tones of original songstress Skye Edwards, the trio – also comprised of brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey – has composed a crowded album fusing hip-hop, dub and art rock.
Naturally, the endless pile-up of sounds often results in disinterest. What remains is yet another composition of loungey background music peppered with the occasional funky masterpiece.
“Gimme Your Love” is a good start; with tinges of dub backed by a shady hip-hop beat. Edwards glides through a sexy melody, while a Santana-esque guitar solo rings over the mixing deck in the background. Yet it’s the skanking beat of “Make Believer” that produces the album’s greatest track. Dub protrudes through a reggae bass line, while its gentle lyrics float on top. It’s a curious blend, one that at times sounds as if two entirely separate tracks have been welded together, but oddly, it’s a triumph.
“Face Of Danger”, “To Be” and “Hypnotized” are almost as successful, thanks to their guest rapper stars. During the former, Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na interweaves his signature manly raps with a funky cowbell beat, while in the latter, French-Chilean musician Ana Tijoux adds some Latin flavor to an otherwise drab concoction. Perhaps the strangest addition, however, is that of Rizzle Kicks in “To Be,” whose peculiar lyrics discuss MDMA infused rump steak.
Such lyrics are as adventurous as it gets when it comes to Head Up High – not helping the band’s reputation for their somewhat uninspiring poetry. Never straying from the themes of failing relationships or manifesting sexual desires, the whole album seems to centre around middle aged boredom: “I wake up every day at dawn and life has come and gone”.
Sadly, the addition of White Denim’s James Petralli doesn’t do much to help matters. Acting as the male counterpart to an otherwise female narration, his contribution to “Call It Love,” “I’ll Fall Apart” and “Finally Found You” is unsuccessful in igniting the dreary lyrics, causing the tracks to fade neglectfully into the background.
Largely unobtrusive in its sound, Head Up High gives the listener very little to judge. Its easy listening style warrants it a harmless record, but one that lacks the edge to give it any kind of mass appeal – or unappeal for that matter. While occasional tracks stand on their own as leading songs, the others enhance the criticism that Morcheeba’s music will rarely surpass the lounge.