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Wednesday, Dec 18 2002
Paul Oakenfold is, without question, one of the most successful dance music DJs to ever drop the needle on a record. The British knob-twiddler -- who began his career playing hip hop in the early '80s and has remixed everyone from U2 to Madonna -- can easily command five figures and a first-class ticket across the globe to spin a four-hour set. In the world of trance music -- the anthemic, synthesized derivative of techno -- there's Oakey, and then there's everyone else.

Now, after so many years of playing other people's music, Oakenfold has decided to make a go of artistry. Unfortunately, the songs on Bunkka, his debut record, reveal nothing new to the dance music community about the revered DJ's creative talents. And for pop fans who have never set foot in a 10,000-capacity club, like the venues on the island of Ibiza where Oakenfold first rose to prominence, the music is middling at best. Save for the bouncy "Starry Eyed Surprise," featuring Crazytown frontman Shifty Shellshock, the tunes lack energy and the lyrics are completely irrelevant.

Oakenfold readily admits that he can't sing, so he's enlisted a mix of eccentric vocalists, including Hunter S. Thompson, who scats in his inimitable writing style on "Nixon's Spirit." There are some strong performances -- new talents Carla Werner and Emiliana Torrini do their best Sarah McLachlan and Björk imitations, respectively -- but the backing for much of the record is horribly generic.

Ice Cube's boombastic rap on the dark number "Get Em Up" suggests that Oakenfold should've stuck to his musical roots. He was, after all, the A&R rep who signed Will Smith and Salt 'N Pepa to their first European record deals. But as successful a pairing as Oakenfold's music is with Cube, the producer misses the mark with other guests like Stockton native Grant Lee Phillips, the almost unrecognizable Perry Farrell, and the ubiquitous Nelly Furtado, who duets with Tricky on the record's closing song. Oakenfold still has an ear for great talent, as his continual output of mix CDs reveals. But his lack of musical creativity -- see the trite breakbeats and obvious synthesizer swells on Phillips' number, "Motion" -- makes you wonder if some superstar DJs shouldn't stay behind the turntables, content to preen in the attentions of hot and sweaty clubgoers.

About The Author

Andrew Strickman


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