Mark Tester
contributor
July 28, 2007
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Unkle
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Rock Music Reviews
Unkle
War Stories

The new Unkle record isn't bad. Then again, it's not at all mind blowing either, which has really been the problem with every Unkle album. The potential to be brilliant has always been there. Instead, Unkle seems to have only survived on hype and listeners' expectations and hopes of a forthcoming groundbreaking album from James Lavelle (aka Unkle).

"Psyence Fiction" wasn't a bad album for it's time. At this point, Unkle was a collaboration between DJ Shadow and James Lavelle. Despite rave reviews and a lot of people claiming this album is brilliant, it just really doesn't seem as good as it could be. Or, at least, doesn't seem like it has any sort of staying power or real stand-out potential. "Psyence Fiction"'s follow-up, the very eh "Never Never Land," is not even worth writing about here.

With his third full-length, James Lavelle has now incorporated desert rocker Chris Goss into the Unkle fold and it shows ... "War Stories" is pretty close to just being a straight up rock record.

On first listen I thought "War Stories" was a huge step up, and actually a really good album. I then started to think, "Wow, sometimes this album totally sounds like Primal Scream's 'XTRMNTR.'" Then on further listen I decided that the new Unkle album sounds like a lot of good albums that mish-mash sleazy rock and electronic music together. And then I realized that most of said albums came out 10 or more years ago. That is the main problem with "War Stories;" any good thing about this album is mired by the fact that it just sounds very, very, very dated. If you're expecting to hear anything you've never heard before on the new Unkle record you might be sorely disappointed. At least with the previous Unkle albums he tried to bring something new to the table.

It seems like "War Stories" is really showing the decline of Unkle's cameo appearances as they keep putting out albums. It features appearances by very-much-so has-been-cum-Jim Morrison-impersonator Ian Astbury of the Cult (who's songs on "War Stories" are actually quite good), 3D of Massive Attack and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age; the later two not awful choices but not terribly interesting ones either. The album also gets off to an awful start with a corny introduction track and a very sub-par, generic instrumental "rocker" with the song "Chemistry."

That being said, the rest of the songs on "War Stories" are not at all bad.

I'm going to go ahead and say it, my favorite songs on this album are actually the ones where James Lavelle sings and doesn't rely on guests to do the vocal duties; the sleaze-rock stomp of both "Hold My Hand" and "Morning Rage" are definite highlights of the record. "Persons & Machinery," featuring Autolux, is also very good, but is basically just an Autolux song with James Lavelle sometimes playing the organ really low in the mix.

This record does have more good moments than bad ones, but, like with every Unkle release, I just expected something a little better and definitely see the potential for it to have been a better album.

Release date: July 24, 2007
Label: Surrender All
Rating: 6.3 / 10

[RMR]