CD: Faithless, To All New Arrivals

You can't fault the trio's ability to talk to a crowd. But why, asks Garry Mulholland, do they speak in glib soundbites?

The press-release for the fifth album from the festival-friendly UK dance trio kicks off with a surprising fact. All those 'best of' collections from stadium-dance acts over the past couple of years pale in comparison with 2005's 1.2 million-shifting Forever Faithless. Not bad for a group who could easily have called themselves Faceless.

So you can understand why Sister Bliss, Maxi Jazz and their non-performing composer/producer Rollo (brother of Dido) feel confident enough to make an album that seeks to encompass all of the great liberal concerns of the age - terrorism, global poverty, immigration, war and ecology - through an underlying conceptual theme of 'new arrivals'.

As anyone who's ever seen Faithless live knows, there is no other band quite so able to transform an audience into a communal mass of true believers in a better world through disco. And at a time when musicians are forced into apolitical writing through guilt-induced critical ridicule for any form of progressive message, you so want to agree with them that 'music matters'. But...

But Faithless's desire to be all things to all good people lets them down. In the end, rapper Maxi should be the voice of this group because his Buddhist desire for a better world is given foundation and weight by a hard-won realism about human flaws. In short, he's too hip hop to be a hippy, and this is why he can inhabit the perspective of terrorist ('Bombs') and anxious father ('The Man in You'). He tethers Faithless to a real, complex world, and when he makes way for half-arsed stabs at jazz and reggae, or banal pleas for peace, love and understanding, To All New Arrivals feels like being trapped in a Green Party encounter group hosted by the Eurythmics.

I truly hope the next Faithless album finally plays to their strengths - big, churchy house grooves and profound raps from Maxi Jazz. Until then, check out the way in which 'Spiders, Crocodiles & Kryptonite' suddenly clicks into the Cure's 'Lullaby'. Failing that, wait until the next greatest hits.

Download: 'Spiders, Crocodiles & Kryptonite'


Garry Mulholland

The GuardianTramp

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