UNKLE Never Never Land

From the opening moments of UNKLE’s second album, Never Never Land, you can sense things are vastly different. Using a snippet of Black Sabbath’s "Changes” makes UNKLE head James Lavelle seem a little too eager to show that yes, DJ Shadow is gone and not coming back. When the duo’s debut album, Psyence Fiction, was released in 1998, anticipation quickly turned into either confusion or disappointment over the finished product. Over-indulgent in spots and mostly misunderstood, it was the sound of big industry names (Thom Yorke, Richard Ashcroft, Mike D) contributing to decent, not excellent, beat-driven backdrops. It made a star out of Badly Drawn Boy, so it wasn’t all bad. Unfortunately, things in the UNKLE camp will likely never improve. Recruiting friend Richard File to try and fill the irreplaceable void left by Shadow, Lavelle has once again needed to call in some big names to rescue his music. Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) warbles on "Safe in Mind” as a thank you for Lavelle’s remix of "No One Knows.” It turns out Homme got a raw deal. Somehow Jarvis Cocker and Brian Eno appear on "I Need Something Stronger” without even mattering. Using Cocker for anything other than his voice immediately voids his contribution for fans. Though something eventually goes right on "Invasion,” featuring Massive Attack’s 3D, and "Reign,” with half of the Stone Roses (Ian Brown and Mani), it’s all too little too late. Be prepared for disillusionment, for this isn’t even half the record Psyence Fiction was. (Mo' Wax)