Faithless make a welcome return to the dance floor on the appropriately titled "The Dance", their first album since 2006's subdued "To All New Arrivals". Fresh from a split with major label Sony/BMG, this is Faithless' first release on their own Nate Tunes label and fans of their legendary dance anthems such as "Insomnia", "Salva Mea", "God Is A DJ" and "We Come 1" will be thrilled, as there are no less then four new club stompers contained here.
Rollo, Sister Bliss and Maxi Jazz have taken a bit of a detour from their dance roots on their last two releases. It worked to perfection on 2004's brilliant "No Roots", in my opinion their best full length. Although there were moments of club music on "No Roots", it was a much more downbeat, oftentimes ambient affair, exploring many of the worlds ills and offering solutions to them. It was a mature artistic and musical statement that worked from start to finish. Maybe not what fans of "Insomnia" may have wanted, but Faithless have always been so much more than a "dance band", and it's their musical diversity that has endeared them to so many fans of electronic based music.
But the follow-up album, 2006's "To All New Arrivals" had the sound of a tired outfit, possibly at the end of the line with nothing new to say. There were rehashed attempts at serious topics that seemed like leftovers from "No Roots", a lot of slower, plodding material and the second half of the album sounded like half finished ideas thrown together to fulfill a record contract. It was, by far, their weakest album and the band admitted things needed to change, including parting ways with Sony/BMG and returning to what made Rollo and Sister Bliss famous in the first place.
So that brings us to "The Dance" which kicks off with the album's first single, and first song directed at the dance floor, "Not Going Home". "It's not over/I'm not going home 'til I can take you with me" Maxi Jazz insists over a pulsing bassline and machine gunning keyboard stabs. The song smooths out a bit for its second half but the tone of the album is set. Filled with six to seven minute songs, "The Dance" is a return to the clubs and, as good as "Not Going Home" is, there are tracks to come that will top it.
"Sun To Me" was first shared online as a preview to the new material in a dub version but appears here in its fully fleshed out, near eight minute glory. "Feelin Good" is the first of two tracks featuring Rollo's sister Dido who keeps her streak alive of appearing on every Faithless album. The song is appropriately titled, a joyous romp that is impossible not to move to. Maxi Jazz throws in a patented rap as the song cools down, only to build back up into a dizzying finish. It's nice to see Maxi used properly again as he's been underutilized on the last couple Faithless releases.
That brings us to "Tweak Your Nipple", a new addition to the list of Faithless dance classics. Maxi Jazz preaches his message of positivity, individuality and empowerment ("So drop your pebble in the mainstream/Start a ripple/It'll buzz you like a tweak on your nipple") before yet another epic Faithless riff builds up. Then the drum beats kick in and this song officially owns you. Scheduled to be the second single from the album, "Tweak Your Nipple" is a massive, storming dance masterpiece.
The only weaker tracks appear early in the album. "Feel Me', a remake of the 1982 minor hit from New Wavers Blancmange, features the vocals of that band's singer Neil Arthur, but his maniacal screaming/shouting starts to reach grating status the longer the song goes on. I understand that is how the original song was as well, but Faithless have sped up the tempo considerably from the original and the vocals start to overshadow everything else going on in the track. It's not a bad remake, but it's by far the weakest dance track included here.
"Crazy Bal'heads" is a much stronger crack at reggae than their previous attempt, "Fatty Boo". Featuring Jonny 'Itch' Fox from The King Blues, the track is the only overtly political one contained here, calling out greedy politicians and bankers to a heavy dub beat. I can't say I am a huge reggae fan, but Faithless have dabbled with this style of music before and this is their best attempt by far. It's grown on me considerably.
"The Dance" is a huge rebound release for Faithless and a resounding response to those who have questioned if their time on the electronic and dance music scene has passed them by. It combines the eclecticism the band is known for, relaxed moments intertwined with mammoth dance tracks and the positive messages of Maxi Jazz. The Almighty Faithless are back, still relevant and still brilliant.
"The Dance" was released May 17, 2010 in the UK. There is not, to date, a US release. It can be imported from UK online retailer Tesco, as well as Faithless' official Online Store. Each version contains an exclusive track as well, listed below in the links.