Armand Van Helden Killing Puritans

The cover of Armand Van Helden's latest has a photo of an African boy holding up a rifle and setting his aim from a position in the grass. He's a revolutionary child, and in some distant way serves as the archetype for so many ravers, hip-hoppers and underground rebels of youth culture. They're courageous enough to take the gun, but too naïve to know what to do with it. Despite years in the biz, Armand's a revolutionary child when it comes to making music. As the title, more than the photo, suggests, Killing Puritans is about breaking up dance floor apartheid and allowing all rhythms to flow freely. With the help of an all-star cast (including N'Dea Davenport, Herbie Hancock, Common, the Mongoloids and Tekitha of the Wu-Tang Clan), Armand traverses jazz-rock-fusion ("Breakdancers Call"), calypso ("Watch Your Back"), new wave ("Koochy," with the hook from Gary Numan's "Cars") and metal ("Little Black Spiders," with guitar riffs from the Scorpions). It's an ambitious repertoire that's consistently eclectic, energetic and full of attitude, but after a while Armand's vibe succumbs to hedonism and machismo. It's particularly sad when a conscious rapper like Common regresses in his rhyme while rocking lines like, "Let me give that ass room/Better yet lets fuck in the bathroom" over the otherwise gorgeous disco grooves of "Full Moon." Similarly, every sound on the album is shouting out: "it's a party, let's get naked!" Nothing really wrong with that, considering that's often de rigeur in dance culture, but considering that it was just a year ago that Armand was delivering soulful garage like "Flowerz" and "You Don't Know Me," it's disappointing to find not a single track here to carry on in the same uplifting vein. Killing Puritans, but not revolutionary enough to create heroes. (SPG)