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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2002

HIGH NOTES

Basement Jaxx


What most people respond to when they first hear Basement Jaxx aren't so much the recognizable references -- the Prince and P-Funk nods, the Latin rhythms, the beats-per-minute rules of late-'80s house music -- but the even more basic stuff, like song structure. Even if you're a champion of electronica and hip-hop, you'll have to admit that, as a singles form, they often seem to be missing something. The Top 40 has become one long, uninterrupted chorus.

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Daft Punk is the other techno production duo being credited with a return to classic pop style, but B-Jaxx are purer. DP, who are French, treat sonic effluvia as a challenge: How do you integrate a Michael McDonald sample into a speed-metal scorcher? What is the weirdest possible use for a C&W guitar riff? Perhaps because they work out of the working-class London district of Brixton, B-Jaxx -- Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe, to be exact -- don't have the inclination to be cute or intellectual. They're craftsmen.

The new album, "Rooty," is named after a dance event they used to sponsor, and one can hear how the individual cuts have been shaped and honed over months of testing on the rubber floor. A mere 46 minutes long, "Rooty" contains real songs -- in other words, real singers (mainly women who don't aspire to divahood) singing real lyrics about real life with real melodies.

As a title, "Rooty" conjures up "roots" music, "rooting" around for ideas, the verbal nonsense of Little Richard ("Tutti frutti, oh rooty!"). It's a helpful analog of B-Jaxx's pop approach, which ranges from the pan-Asian romanticism of "Broken Dreams" to the pure disco pleasure of "Romeo" to the Beastie Boy bluster of "Where's Your Head At." They don't just bring tha noize, they bring tha tunez.

Basement Jaxx: Feb. 1, 10 p.m., at Zepp Tokyo (Smash, [03] 3444-6751); Feb. 4, 7 p.m., at Nagoya Ozon (Jailhouse, [052] 936-6041); Feb. 5, 7 p.m., at On Air Osaka (Smash West, [06] 6361-0313). Tickets are 6,000 yen in advance.


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