Back in 2008, Morcheeba's fifth album 'Dive Deep' was clearly the product of a band looking for something, a shot of Mojo to re-energise their music and save them drifting into irrelevance. Stuck in a genre not much noted for its animation, it seemed that that particular something was former singer Skye Edwards, with whom the Cheebs - effectively brothers Ross and Paul Godley - were reunited for the subsequent release 'Blood Like Lemonade' two years later. The reformation of the classic line-up that had been responsible for the million selling 'Big Calm' meant the omens were undeniably positive, but despite all the goodwill, the fizz in question still felt decidedly flat.
Take 2 arrives in the form of 'Head Up High' and the news is that it's Morcheeba's best record in years. Opener 'Give Me Your Love' is stuffed full of all their usual archetypes - big looping break, scratching, Edwards' smoky, elegant delivery - but the change is that they seem to be having fun, the result being a vibrancy which tops almost anything on the previous two outings.
It's a sense of renewal that, whilst not quite cathartic, opens up some new possibilities. Exhibit one: Jordan Stephens adds a little razzle dazzle to proceedings by turning in a few rhymes on the vaguely jazz influenced 'To Be', whilst Jurassic 5's Chali 2na does something similar on 'Face of Danger', only sounding a little more grown up.
By far the most telling contribution, however, is provided by White Denim's James Petralli, who co-writes three songs and seems to be the most effective foil amongst the hired co-collaborators. His triptych winds up being most of 'Head Up High''s good bits, namely the grinding R&B thumper 'Call It Love', the gospel schmaltz of 'I'll Fall Apart' and closer 'Finally Found You''s louche, unfussy sense of class.
Having woken up from such a long hibernation, it's almost inevitable that there are some blurry-eyed half ideas slipping past the drowsy quality controllers, and both 'Make Believe' and 'Under The Ice' fall into the category of mid-range car ad fodder. Unlike the past, however, these cul-de-sacs of blandness are kept to a relative minimum, and The Godfreys, Edwards and the rest have a new spring in their step which might relocate them somewhere closer to a British record buying public which, up until now, had become fairly ambivalent about them. Not ambitious enough to be viewed as a renaissance, 'Head Up High' is, however, the first time in years Morcheeba have broken out of their niche. There may be some new tricks for them to learn yet.
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