Armand Van Helden's Killing Puritans
album is infuriating. Oh, there's a lot of great stuff on there: the filtered heavy metal of "Little Black Spiders", the sentimental disco hip hop of "Full Moon", first single "Koochy" with its absolutely punishing synth riff nicked from Gary Numan's "Cars", the second half of the p-funk-inspired, Basement Jaxx-imitating "Flyaway Love" and the dramatic, bombastic closer "Conscience". The problem is when Armand tries to be too clever, such as on the absolutely appallingly
fiddly live drumming in "Breakdancer's Call", or the unnecessarily wacky combination of harmonica with african percussion that is "Swamp Thing". Or the way he insists on silly throwaway moments like the short electro-porn of "House Boxing", or the three minutes of EQ-wankery at the beginning of "Flyaway Love", or the interminable snatches of irrelevant conversation. It's one of the only records I own which I really can't just leave running straight through. And yet it's still great.
Armand obviously has issues. Half the time he realises that simplicity is the key, but then he tries to contradict himself just because he can. "Watch Your Back" is the most accomplished track on the album, a strange fusion of barely-controlled Jaxx-mania and the shuddering percusso-dub sound Leftfield use to come up with on tracks like "Afro-Left". It's pretty impressive, but it's no match for "Conscience", which throughout the whole track uses just a single, devastastingly easy chord progression. (sigh) Still, I guess Armand's hit-n-miss approach is infinitely preferable to the host of producers still churning out smooth, appealing, bland and indistinguishable house grooves.