I was warned off this one, and to be fair, I had my doubts. It was their first album in sixteen years, and the last thing I'd heard before this was Shugyōsha Step which appeared on the Funky Alternatives album back in 1986; and while Shugyōsha Step was all right, it had a faint tang of leaders having become followers, falling a couple of years behind with that there break dance music. These sort of comeback albums don't always work, and you had to wonder if maybe the lads felt inclined to cash in on having been sampled by the Chemical Brothers.
On the one hand, this eponymous fourth album doesn't seem to represent a significant sonic leap forward from 1984's Urban Gamelan; but on the other, Urban Gamelan sounded pretty damn fine to my ears, so at least we're getting back into the saddle on a good footing. 23 Skidoo were never really what you'd call popular in the Chemical Brothers' sense, but at the same time, either the extent of their influence has been disproportionately widespread, or they simply tapped into a certain groove before everyone else. It seems significant to see the likes of Massive Attack thanked on the cover, not to mention the appearance of Roots Manuva and Pharoah Sanders on a couple of tracks. This record might almost be seen - or I suppose heard - as a restatement of intent, maybe a reclamation of territory, particularly as 400 Blows ultimately turned out to be such a complete waste of everyone's time. It's unapologetically smooth jazz with a weirdly angular aesthetic, beautifully atmospheric, even hypnotic, reclaiming rhythm from all the usual robosuspects in their camouflage pants, and hopefully giving aneurysms to any industrial historians trying their durndest to shoehorn anything this organic into the Ministry backstory.
Nothing for sixteen years and then a double album which effortlessly made everyone else look like a complete cunt - not bad going.