Morcheeba follow up the success of 1998's Big Calm with Fragments of Freedom. In a world choked with sound, for the last few years it's been hard to find anything that lingers, anything that grows with you rather than on you, any relationship between audience and artist with that special fidelity that goes beyond infatuation and becomes love. Morcheeba are that rare thing: a band to love but also a band that keeps you guessing, that refuse flatly to co-operate with the safe maxims of stasis and repetition that make so much modern pop so damn predictable. Here is a band with a totally unique relationship with anyone who hears them: perhaps the only band on earth to demand that you expect the unexpected and then actually deliver on that promise.
Morcheeba were once the dreamiest bass-heavy, slow funk-oriented group in all of trip-hopdom, as anyone who's spent time with their 1998 sophomore album, Big Calm
, will attest. Fragments of Freedom
begins interestingly enough, with the languorous, slide guitar-enhanced track "World Looking In." But things go awry from there; the lyrics are so daft and pale, and the R&B-lite arrangements so limp, that the listener keeps waiting for the group to bust out laughing, then introduce the real
music. "Let It Go," with its faux-inspirational chorus and tepid keyboard runs, sounds like the Euro-club music they might play at Epcot Center. By the time Biz Markie shows up with a short, sweet track of old-school boasting halfway through, it's far too late to save this CD. Freedom
sounds like a misdirected attempt to reach a larger audience; the result is as appealing as cotton candy that's been dipped in maple syrup, covered with vanilla frosting, and then dropped in the sand. Recommended only as a clear example of how not
to make interesting dance-pop with wide appeal. --Mike McGonigal