Richard X - Presents His X-Factor Vol. 1
Richard X first came to public attention in 2002, when he produced Sugababes’ Freak Like Me. Sophisticated and sexy, with nods to the future and, in sampling Gary Numan’s Are Friend’s Electric?, the past, only the most hardened music snob could deny its brilliance. It justifiably shot to number one, resurrecting the Sugababes’ career.
That track is on the guest-vocalist laden (Richard X) Presents His X-Factor Vol. 1, albeit in a slightly less incendiary version than the radio edit. Half the album is cut from the same cloth (which is to say is based around recognisable samples and/or cover versions, using artists with pop appeal); Being Nobody and Finest Dreams are almost as perfect, although You Used To and Lonely could be filed under ‘functional’. More in an instrumental vain (bar the odd robot voice), Rock Jacket is reminiscent of Daft Punk and employs the same Spandau Ballet sample heard on Rui Da Silva’s Touch Me.
Much of the rest of the record is given over to what might best be described as ‘artful oddities’.
The distinctive Deborah Evans-Stickland narrates (rather than sings) her way through perhaps the most bizarre cover of Walk On By you’ll ever hear. Quite why the emotionless vocal is solely confined to the right speaker we’ll never know. And what’s with the seagulls, bells and the ringing of a phone amongst the electronic bleeps? It’s anybody’s guess, really, but by this stage you’re pretty sure Richard X is not Pete Waterman.
In fact the track that follows, Lemon/Lime (again featuring Evans-Stickland), is a mind-boggling piss-take of the pop business. “Do you really think it’s the right career move for you?/ Are you looking for the chance to express yourself?/ Are you willing to work flexible hours?/ Then please come along and see us./ Maybe WE are what you are looking for.” It falls into a pattern of rhyming terms after that; for sure, this is the only place you’ll hear David S-BEEP-n paired with Armageddon.
The drum-heavy You (Better Let Me Love You X4) Tonight is the sort of track you can imagine male-strippers gyrating to, and, unless you’re particularly fond of camp, could have you tearing the CD from the player and throwing it through the nearest window.
On paper, album closer Into You may have sounded like a great end of evening track. Duetting with a Mazzy Star sample, Jarvis Cocker croons such lines as “Now I feel you in every molecule of me/ In every cell of my body, you are running through me”. Unfortunately, the husky beauty of Hope Sandoval’s vocal demands more space and respect than is given here, and the intended effect is somewhat negated.
So X-Factor Vol. 1 is undoubtedly interesting. If Richard X has an aim, it is to take the has-beens, the teen-stars, the eighties’ samples, and turn them into something cool, in the process showing how important a sharp producer is in creating good pop music. But who is the target audience? The biggest danger is, taken as a whole, the album will be too arch for young teenagers, although X’s knowledge of music, critical eye and occasionally cringe-worthy irony (Mark Goodier?) no doubt played a part when it came to crafting the three sterling examples of pop included. Older music fans, however, on leaving a few prejudices at the door, should find X-Factor Vol. 1 to be an experience that is both intelligent and thrilling.