Karen O and Danger Mouse - Lux Prima - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Karen O and Danger Mouse - Lux Prima

by Mark Moody Rating:6 Release Date:2019-03-15
Karen O and Danger Mouse - Lux Prima
Karen O and Danger Mouse - Lux Prima

Whatever your preconceived notion of what a collaboration between Yeah Yeah Yeah’s leader Karen O and über producer Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) might be, you will probably, for the most part, be wrong.  After hearing 2017’s Milano collaboration between Daniele Luppi, Parquet Courts, and on a few tracks Karen O on lead vocals you could be forgiven for thinking Lux Prima would be a crackling, punk-inspired sashay.  Milano was released on Burton’s 30th Century imprint and subsequently, he produced Parquet Court’s dazzling smorgasbord Wide Awake! which had the boys going from dancehall to funk to old school punk.  It seemed a natural assumption that O would bring her insouciant growl along for another romp on a tightly produced, but adventurous journey. 

What you get instead on Lux Prima is something that paces more like a soundtrack to a 1970s era movie that was never made.  Albeit a soundtrack that crosses up Roy Ayers’ Coffy with John Barry’s Moonraker, and throws a bit of Dark Side of the Moon in for good measure.  Regardless of how those elements are mixed or separated on each track, O for the most part cruises through the album like a latter-day Shirley Bassey in confident control.

The album opens with the title track, a three-part opus of break of dawn opening credits giving way to a cooly sung funk break and wrapping with a delicate docking sequence.  The track comes complete with synth derived strings, bonafide backup singers and a choir, and is buoyed along with live drums.  It’s enough to whet the appetite and create anticipation for what comes next.

From there, the songs tend to fall into either the spacier or the funkier groove.  Album highlight and single, ‘Woman’, has a can’t miss house beat to it and O’s vocals are an inspired declaration of “you get what you get”.  She also comes up aces on the flabbier funk of ‘Redeemer’ where she threatens “I’m comin’ for you, you’re not comin’ for me.”  Here the rock-solid rhythm carries things along as on the disco diva turn of ‘Turn the Light’ and even the mewling go-go boots in space inspired ‘Leopard’s Tongue’. 

When Lux Prima turns to its less terrestrial moments is where it is at its weakest.  Early track ‘Ministry’ being the exception where the drops and fills sync up with O’s sultry vocals to make for the sleekest cross of styles on the album.  However, the two tracks that close out the album fall particularly flat.  ‘Reveries’ feels like it could have subbed out for Moonraker’s closing sequence and though O’s vocals are on point for that, it feels particularly dated.  While the protracted closer ‘Nox Lumina’, just comes off as campy.  O’s cooed couplet “somewhere in my room, sometimes I don’t lock the door” feels so earlier era sanitized that it barely gets an eyebrow raise.              

With Burton at the dials, there is no doubt that Lux Prima sounds absolutely fantastic from start to finish.  And conceptually the patchwork of 70s derived sounds is a solid idea.  Unfortunately, the album also sounds like it was precisely calculated by a team of NASA engineers to land each note exactly where it should be and flawlessly mimic its source material.  All good space movies have moments of danger, dread, and times where you fear the rivets won’t hold.  Sometimes they don't.  Lux Prima doesn’t have enough of those moments and like the space dust that was its inspiration, it comes off just a little too dry.           

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