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Calvin Harris
Ready For The Weekend Iain Moffat , August 25th, 2009 08:17

Calvin Harris didn't really create disco, you know, but so far that's been no more of a problem than, say, Johnny Rotten not being an actual antichrist or Adam Ant's passport being fairly unlikely to list his occupation as "dandy highwayman". Of course, he's only got away with such chutzpah because his instincts have thus far been so effortlessly unerring. He was, after all, the first pop star to spring fully formed from the new rave wardrobe, he managed to drag the geek hipsterism that was bearing such bounteous fruit for Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem screaming into the commercial arena, and he appeared to have a Basement Jaxx-y knack for top-night-out distillation. Mind you, as Lydon and Goddard know only too well, sustaining such simple supremacy rarely comes easily.

The early indications here were promising enough: 'Dance Wiv Me' remains a powerhouse of a promoted-to-the-premiership single, thanks not only to the primary charms of Dizzee's scampish scamperings but also — just as crucially — to the seamlessness of its genre-joining surgery, which had Harris very much at its heart, and 'I'm Not Alone' is a truly engaging and somewhat well-earned chart-topper, creatively rich and fascinatingly stature-shifting. Yet the subtle shifts between the two show up some of the glaring issues infecting this album. Calvin appears to have entered a period of baffled ambivalence towards hedonism, which may be just about forgivable in a more traditionally indie setting — hell, much of the best work during the Britpop comedown practically depended upon it — but which hardly seems appropriate when he's otherwise nailing his clubcentric colours so vividly to the mast. Worse, he's got it into his head that incorporating a bit of guitar into proceedings will showcase a more impressive range than before, whereas it actually leads at its most ill-judged to 'Worst Day' — the closest anyone's ever come on record to capturing a horrific collision between some B-list post-Smiths chancers and second-album NER*D.

That is, thankfully, as grim as it gets; but there's nonetheless an undeservedly cavalier air to far too much of the material here. For instance, 'You Used To Hold Me' really isn't the Ralphi Rosario one; instead, it's far closer to Nalin and Kane's 'Beachball' but without any of its lissomness and cursed by emerging at a time when overly-treated vocals have reached critical mass. 'Flashback' really isn't the Laurent Garnier one; instead, it uses faux-Italo piano and faux-French chord sashays as signifiers of euphoria while trying not to drown in its own disappointing dampness. And 'Relax' really isn't . . . well, you get the idea. Furthermore, 'Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La' might be terrific set to a triangling monster in ad-sized chunks, but comes here complete with the sort of sinking feeling not experienced since Babylon Zoo. Oh, and 'Stars Come Out' puts in a sterling effort at rehabilitation by alluding so closely to Dubstar in the final minute, but prior to that it's been struggling as ersatz Earth Wind And Fire when its creator has neither the vocal potency nor capacity for cosmic soul to perform it remotely convincingly.

In fact, you have to wonder why so much of this album plays down to Harris' limitations given that its most redeeming moments suggest reserves of excellence that lie curiously untapped. His obvious affection for the 80s takes unexpectedly victorious form in the sax work on 'The Rain'; 'Burns Night' is an affecting, if abrupt, instrumental waltz that would sit admirably in the oeuvre of many a more avant-garde performer; 'Blue''s relentless keyboard ribaldry is giddily great. There's been no shortage of artists much lower placed in the electro pantheon producing far more than mere morsels this year, though, and — even giving it a little difficult-second-album leeway — 'Ready For The Weekend' is still anything but acceptable.

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