Melody Maker | Album | 12 September 1992
One Little Indian
There are times when I can't help thinking this is the biggest pile of shite I've ever heard in my life. There are also times when I'm of almost the opposite opinion. Confused? Man, you ain't heard nothing yet.
Discounting "Progeny", which last year brought all 279 mixes of "Move Any Mountain" together on a single record, "Boss Drum" is The Shamen's long expected first fully-fledged dance LP. The title is a giveaway and crediting Colin Angus as a guitarist on the sleeve must be a joke. There's not a recognisable guitar sound anywhere, not even from special guest Steve Hillage.
The backing tracks bubble and squeak with acid houses. It's like 1988 again. The title cut is an ace tribal techno tune and there are some great pop moments too. Still, going right back to "Drop", Colin was always good at melodies. "Phorever People" features ex-Soul Family Sensation singer Jhelisa, who also appears on "LSI (Love Sex Intelligence)", and would make an ideal next single - when Mr C's dumb vocals are edited out.
"Phorever People" is actually sharper single material than the awful "Ebeneezer Goode", the main problem with which is again Mr C. I know his contribution is supposed to be funny but nobody has laughed at his cockney bullshit for the reason intended, which is why Melody Maker's TTT column has made him into a Frank Bough-type whipping boy. So to speak. Perhaps a few vocal effects would help his cause, but it's hard to imagine that all the electronic gadgetry in the world could make the ugly ragga chat of "Comin' On" any less excruciating.
That said, I'm not so indisposed towards Mr C as most of my colleagues. Some of the recent criticism he has faced is a bit daft in view of the fact that he has long played a lead role in The Shamen's live shows and I reckon the raps of "LSI" are as strong as those of "Move Any Mountain". He doesn't sound out of place on "Fatman" either. Yead, it'd be nice if he'd sometimes shut the fuck up, but his presence makes sense in view of Colin and the late Will Sin's advances into clubland that began with "Transcendental" four years ago.
What's more, it's not as though all the bad points of this LP are down to Mr C and all the good ones to Colin. It's quite a relief to report that the instrumental "Librae Solidi Denari" is by far the worst track here. The chap holding the metronome must have been epileptic and the percussion sounds like a kid kicking a tin can around. It really is garbage, a frightening example of what happens when you eat too many disco biscuits.
"Re:Evolution" will probably also be perceived as being a trifle bonkers. It's not so much a Shamen track as a chance for ageing American psychedelic guru Terence McKenna to lecture on the Gaian Mind and Shamanism in the Third Millennium. There's no way the hordes of baggy teenagers buying this LP after hearing the singles on "Top Of The Pops" will know what the hell he's going on about. I think it's brilliant. Then again, I've always been a bit of a snob.
Colin Angus would argue that it doesn't matter one iota if most people can't grasp the message of "Re:Evolution". He is, remember, of the opinion that the physical power of the drum is enough to bring about mystical revelations on the dancefloor. And I thought it was just the drugs. But while it's easy to be cynical about some of The Shamen's ideas, their genuine concern for the environment is commendable. As is their overriding sense of optimism.
"Boss Drum" is certainly not an ordinary record, but it's not an extraordinary one either. There are too many yawns between the thrills. If, as Tel Boy McKenna claims on "Re:Evolution", a Shaman is someone who has "been to the very end", then Colin Angus presumably knows what he is doing with this album, but I'm buggered if I do half the time.