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The Bug - Infected

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Artist: The Bug

Album: Infected

Label: Ninja Tune

Review date: Feb. 2, 2011

The remix EP: so often dodgy, occasionally inspired, usually an artless bid to hold the public’s attention between albums. For Kevin Martin’s The Bug, this may be a necessity, with his last two albums separated by a five-year chasm. Still, with the exceptional quality of his recent output, including the King Midas Sound offshoot, one imagines his audience would gladly hang around for the next proper full-length, even if it takes a few years. Infected, unfortunately, is not that work.

London Zoo, Martin’s last outing under this alias, was truly awesome. Taking the raw, Public Enemy level assault of his early work and submerging it in a foreboding, dread-infused brine while simultaneously upping the production values, Zoo was both genuinely unsettling and sonically lavish. It’s artfulness never got in the way of its raw power, while its heavy-duty "fuck you" vibe never dumbed down its depth of vision. Most of the songs on it are great, but there were two, here reprised on Infected, that especially stood out. "Skeng," featuring grime rapper Flo Dan, is one of the aughtie’s most menacing cuts. And the jubilantly boastful "Poison Dart" gave Warrior Queen the finest track of her career thus far. Both were defined by superb vocal performances, crushing bass and thick-yet-nimble hooks that metal bands dream of.

Infected returns to these two songs, hoping, I suppose, that lightning will strike twice. It does not. Each track gets a new vocalist and a bit of arrangement tweaking, and each vocalist gets a remix. This would be awesome, of course, if the new additions were up to snuff. Reggae has shown us time and again how it can be done, with instrumental backing tracks hosting a plethora of inspired singers. Here, though, we get the hammier side of The Bug’s repertoire. The "Skeng" track now floats through a bit of Portishead-lite territory, wholly harmless and unappealing. "Poison Dart," on the other hand, is graced with the always-boring Roots Manuva. He comes off like a stiff, boring bro trying to be cool and "conscious," and his flow hovers safely in middling Ja Rule territory. The Bug always pushed a heavy undercurrent of socio-political commentary, using bass music as protest. But Manuva reins that in, opting instead for some straight-ahead aggression.

The remixes aren’t really much better, although they’re less of a letdown simply because one expects so little from remixes. Martin has been ferociously cut up by Aphex Twin in the past, but fellow IDM giants Autechre don’t come through. The duo’s remix of "Skeng" plods, and Scratch DVA’s take on "Poison Dart" sounds like so much forgettable British electronica. These are not bulletproof choruses, able to travel across tracks and genres unruffled. They are tied to the songs from which they came, and have a short lifespan outside those walls.

I’m sure there are a couple Bug completists, but probably not that many. This makes Infected a depressing product, a wholly unnecessary record by an often-great artist. Perhaps some DJs will find a use for it, but why bother with flabby remixes when the original is so solid?

By Daniel Martin-McCormick

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