July 26, 2007


The first impression of War Stories, the third release from UK outfit Unkle, is one of awesome power: a towering juggernaut of sonic beautastic-ness.

Wily and hard-bitten in places, lush and orchestral in others, War Stories strains and snaps at its leash like a feral, wholly unpredictable beast.

Repeated listens, however, begin to reveal a crack or two in the savagery. The album seems less bite, more whimper. Somehow, someway, the whole is not quite equal to its parts.

But, oh, the parts.

The first single, "Burn My Shadow", is like a warped, cracked-out version of Revolution (from the Cult’s Love LP, circa 1985). Ian Astbury is amazing here, managing to sound both menacing and plaintive at the same time. It’s a treat to hear Astbury in such fine form, and he shows up not once, but twice, gracing the albums’ final track as well.

Unkle has had no shortage of big-name guests in the past: Thom Yorke and Ian Brown, to name but two. And their latest line-up is an intriguing mix of some of rock’s more interesting vocalists, including Gavin Clarke, Liela Moss from The Duke Spirit, Josh Homme and, of course, Astbury.

Not all guest tracks work – Gavin Clarke’s "Keys To The Kingdom" is one of the weaker songs on the album. It’s Astbury who is the standout here, no question. His deep, mellifluous voice perfectly suits Unkle’s dark, volatile grooves.

When it works, it works: War Stories' highs are spectacularly high. Certain parts verge on tired retreads of Unkle's older work, however, and this is, ultimately, what makes the album a flawed one.

Unkle - Burn My Shadow:

[Unkle - MySpace]


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