Paul Oakenfold

Don't feel bad for Paul Oakenfold. The superstar DJ may miss a step here and there, but the sci-fi soundtrack maker and club-hit remixer won't feel a thing when his debut artist album gets the third degree by critics expecting a watershed release. Unfortunately for Oakey, contemporary DJ Timo Maas beat the pack to the punch when his album Loud blew through the electronic ceiling. Now every DJ looking to call himself a legitimate artist will be held in comparison. Bunkka isn't bad, but it's not great either (often plodding and dull); and when you line up a cast of contributors including Ice Cube, Perry Farrell, Tricky, and Nelly Furtado you should deliver better. The eleven tracks are hit and miss; either they rise to the occasion and talent being used, or they fall flat and dissipate into nothing. Farrell's wonderful crooning on "Time of Your Life" is unlike anything you've heard from him before and works mostly because the former Jane's Addiction/Porno For Pyros front man is a DJ these days and knows how to match vocals with electronic beats. Carla Werner beautifully complements the ethereal atmosphere on the airy "Southern Sky" with her angel-like longing, and even degenerate legend Hunter Thompson gets in on the action by delivering a haunting monologue over a gloomy beat deservedly jabbing his favorite foil on "Nixon's Spirit." A sort-of peak is reached on "Starry-Eyed Surprise," a collaboration with Shifty Shellshock of Crazy Town that drips pop in a pleasant sing-along way. But after that the album jerks and jolts through some pretty rough terrain as the other guests find themselves out of place and off-key. Ice Cube doesn't say anything he (and a thousand other rappers for that matter) hasn't said before on "Get Em Up." Tricky and Furtado try to play the good and the bad but only end up ugly on the closing track "Harder They Come." And if anyone can find the rhyme or reason for the Grant-Lee Phillips effort "Motion" please let Oakenfold know ASAP. The opener, a rolling tech track aptly titled "Ready Steady Go," smashes along like the James Bond theme song, and the ambient "Zoo York" is eclectic and strange but in a way that captures the essence of city life. Oakenfold didn't become the world's most famous DJ by accident; the cat has skills and will continue to headline global gigs, work with bands like U2, and be all that a DJ can be. But Bunkka, even with its moments of bliss, is far from Oakenfold's best.

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Kevin McLauglin