The problems which attended the troubled gestation of Basement Jaxx's fifth album – among them family illness, relationship break-up and a lack of confidence about their direction – have clearly left their mark on the aptly-titled Scars, the weakest release of their 10-year career.
Tracks like the single "Raindrops" may brandish the pumping house beats of yore, but with a few exceptions they're nowhere near as joyously propulsive as in their earlier hits. The vocal collaborations likewise seem less considered: "My Turn" offers an unhappy alliance with Lightspeed Champion's indie leanings, the routine contributions of Kelis and Santigold fail to enliven "Scars" and "Saga" respectively, and the combination of Amp Fiddler's bluesy vocal with a Shadows guitar sample isn't developed enough to make "A Possibility" more than just a possibility. Things improve later, with "Twerk" giving Flashdance's "Maniac" a club-stomp makeover, and the blend of marimba and strings offering a pleasing bed for Congolese singer Jose Hendrix Ndelo on "D.I.S.tractionz". Best of all is "What's a Girl Got to Do?", which has the quirky jollity we've come to expect from the duo. Elsewhere, however, things are getting a bit strained on planet Jaxx.
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