The first full-length in four years from the electronica duo of James Lavelle and Richard File, better known as UNKLE, War Stories is an unexpected rock album. From Lavelle’s hip-hop/ dance and electronic roots with DJ Shadow from their first album, Psyence Fiction, nearly 10 years ago, he, now with File, has long been working with rock luminaries like Thom Yorke, Josh Homme, Brian Eno, Jason Newsted and many others. Why not put out a rock record?
So they did, and War Stories is it, right from its cleaned up, driving post-rock instrumental introductory track, “Chemistry.” Chris Goss on production probably helped out quite a bit, and likely served as a backup vocalist and laid down some guitar work. It’s hazy, often drugged-out downtempo rock, certainly ’80s dance-influenced at times, but it’s basically a moody rock record, in the Joy Division, David Bowie sense.
With rock stars. Homme lends his vocals to “Restless.” Ian Astbury washes off some shame from his work with The Doors with “Burn My Shadow” and “When Things Explode.” British singer Gavin Clark makes vocal contributions to two tracks, Autolux another.
As a result, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure listen, consisting of clean lines, natural rhythms, extended, unmodulating riffs and rich arrangements. There’s the occasional goofy DJ idea, with long snare drum lead-ins and sometimes goofy percussion, but I suppose you have to let your roots show a bit.
A strange introduction to UNKLE, but a strong album for fans and the otherwise uninterested.
In A Word: Deliberate