If Armand Van Helden, New York-via-Boston's DJ maven of hip-hop and house, is such a complete and total American badass as he'd have everyone believe, why the hell did he release a song named "Koochy" that samples the soft '80s synthboy Gary Numan and his phenomenal "Cars"? Van Helden also got to the top of the house genre through chart-topping remixes of Tori Amos, Sneaker Pimps, and New Order among others -- this from a man who billows on about how hard he and his music are in comparison to other popular house outfits (think Basement Jaxx), dresses ghetto, and poses for fashion shoots like a real b-boy.
If you believe the propaganda, Killing Puritans is the punk aesthetic brought to the big beat dance scene, and in some ways, this, Van Helden's third album, pulls it off. The single "Little Black Spiders" transforms a clean Scorpions guitar lick and a sultry female vocal by Fiona Marr into what may be the first metal dance anthem; it will be heard pumping from mini-trucks and major club sound systems all summer long. The legendary Headhunters (featuring Herbie Hancock and N'Dea Davenport) come on board for "Watch Your Back," a pumping eight-and-a-half-minute Latin house track with anecdotal touches of the famous "Watermelon Man."
But there's nothing really new in "Breakdancers Call," which sounds too much like the Propellerheads' "Take California," and "Full Moon" (featuring Common) comes off like a Will Smith track minus Smith's clean-cut charisma. Take Van Helden for what he is -- a stellar remixer and producer of dance music with a touch too much attitude. If he muted his ego and his musical affectations just a touch, he'd be right were he wants to be -- leading the Stateside hard house movement to commercial pastures.