U.N.K.L.E. – War Stories

UNKLEI don’t think there’s been a recent group that’s been as derided as U.N.K.L.E. (maybe apart from Razorlight). I remember their first album Psyence Fiction getting quite positive reviews. Then a few years later, the album became a byword for trip-hop excess. It’s still an album that has some great track on it for me. The group’s second (without DJ Shadow onboard), again was lambasted for its bombastic, over-the-top production values. It certainly had its moments, especially the stirring “Reign” and “Eye For An Eye”. Now, U.N.K.L.E.’s third album has arrived, with better reviews, but I think it’s their weakest yet. War Stories is James Lavelle and Richard File’s second album as a duo and it features more input from Queens of the Stone Age vocalist Josh Homme and producer Chris Goss. There is a distinct guitar-rock orientated sound on War Stories: something like “Lawless” has some jagged guitars, but it didn’t exactly set my pulse racing. Massive Attack vocalist 3D pops up on Lawless, but can’t save the track from sounding limp and lifeless. In fact War Stories is characterised by lackluster vocals. The Cult’s Ian Astbury does his best Jim Morrison impression on “Burn My Shadow” but fails to lift the track from it’s meandering beat. 

That said, there’s not exactly a lot wrong with War Stories, it’s just that so much of it fails to hit the mark. If it was directness Lavelle and co. were going for, then they’re way off the mark. Most of the tracks don’t make an impression, or simply glide by without anything memorable to them. It’s as if they’ve taken onboard the criticism of being too produced and cinematic and scaled everything back but just too much. It’s a shame, as I can always go for some orchestral trip-hop beats. The edition I bought contained a bonus disc of instrumental versions which do redeem the songs somewhat, but maybe a different direction will be needed next time.

U.N.K.L.E. – Burn My Shadow:


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