Happy Mondays 'Uncle Dysfunktional'
Monday, September 10, 2007
An interesting listen, though far from a masterpiece. Loose, funky and eclectic, the flaws are many but outnumbered by the positives. May not be destined for commercial success, but the Mondays have once again created a solid and enjoyable album.
The CLUAS Verdict? 7 out of 10
Over two decades have passed since the Happy Monday's were formed, a period during which a hedonistic career has seen many rises and falls in creative and commercial fortunes. So while their latest album Uncle Dysfunktional is not so much a make or break record, can it show Shaun Ryder rising Lazarus-like one more time?
The album is informed heavily by its new make up – the only members of the original Happy Mondays are Shaun Ryder, Bez and Gaz Whelan - resulting in a sound vastly different from before. It is almost like the sound of Black Grape – loose and eclectic, with a number of musical touch points. One criticism that can be easily levelled at the album is that of over-production. The Mondays have always been a band defined by their producer, and this is true of Uncle Dysfunktional, which seems to have Sunny Levine and Howie B stamped all over it. From the horns gracing “Deviantz” to the strings on the trip hop-influenced track “Rats with Wings” each song has some prodcution value stands out. Nontheless there is a sense of cohesiveness and creativity that stops the album from falling apart under the weight of the mixing desk.
One of the defining aspects of the album is the heavy bass throughout, a dub influence that permeates most tracks. Another unifying element is Ryder’s vocals and lyrics, which range from the funny to the absurd. Occasionally, the vocals can be detrimental: not gelling and degrading the overall quality of the song. Other times his voice is perfectly suited to the groove created by the band and it’s then that everything truly shines. This is most apparent on stand-out tracks like “Jellybean,” and the twisted version of Debbie Harry’s “Rush Rush.”
One doesn't need the references throughout the CD's booklet to Factory and Northern Soul to know what their influences are. One can easily tell that from the music, which continues to bear the hallmark of funk, dance and dub.
The personnel may have changed and the music may have a modern gloss, but the band remains the same, and there is continuity in the cover art (by Central Station Design, with a "Fact 500" designation received, care of the late Tony Wilson). Uncle Dysfunktional is an album of many flaws, but with yet more pluses – an enjoyable and always interesting listen. The dream may not have been realised, but it sounds like Happy Mondays had a hell of a time trying.
To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.