In the summer of '93, Leftfield, or rather a punk rock friend of theirs, wished aloud for Hollywood to catch fire. It did. Tinseltown was torched and their superlative collaboration with John Lydon, 'Open Up' ramraided the Top Five. After five years as underground heroes, Neil Barnes and Paul Daley had written themselves a pop classic.
There is, of course, far more to Leftfield than old punks wailing about barbecuing casting agents. Bridging the house / techno divide in 1989 and in the process inverting the genre monster known as progressive house, they've built a reputation as killer remixers of drastically selective bent, and along the way, they've put out roughly one single a year. Unlike practically every other prime mover in dance, Leftfield chose to disentangle themselves from the hurly-burly of rush releases and passing trends, and instead take time trying to mark off a territory of their own.
So, two whole years in the making, 'Leftism' is one of the most eagerly awaited debut albums in recent memory. In tone, it fits loosely between forelock-tugging techno and the handbag mainstream. The reanimated '95 model of the early single, 'Release The Pressure', is like M-People without the vacant grin, a vocal-driven electro-skank that's pure ankle-busting dancefloor funk. Acid house nirvana flashes back on 'Space Shanty', complete with headfuck noises to give the pill-popping fraternity a dose of The Fear. And 'Open Up', inevitably making another appearance, is shouty disco pop unlike anything before or since.
This is the Leftfield gameplan we're already familiar with. When they do try to vary the musical terrain, however, Barnes and Daley seem content to reproduce other people's ideas with no extra topping - witness 'Melt's neutral ambience and 'Black Flute's standard-issue tribal techno. Failing that, they retread concepts of their own, which now seem ancient because they were hatched so long ago. The raggafied 'Check One' for instance, is just the old version of 'Release The Pressure' revisited.
For sure, a couple of those ideas apparently hurled at the studio wall stick firmly indeed. 'Storm 3000's glistening neo-jungle and the spooked breakbeat psychodrama of 'Original' (featuring Curve's Toni Halliday), ooze class and creativity.
Still, you'd expect more beef after all this time. A couple of years ago, 'Leftism' might've seemed thrilling, bold and innovative. In '95 nose to nose with Sabres Of Paradise's twilight gloom and Orbital's mathematical melodies, not to mention Goldie and junglist friends lurking in the wings, it just won't blow you away. Leftfield are far from yesterday's men but they're not quite today's either.
*** (out of 5)
review by Gareth Grundy (nicked from 'Select', dated 1996)