On the back cover of the CD booklet that accompanies Richard X's first full-length is an anti-piracy statement from EMI Music (Astralwerks' parent), a strongly worded missive reminding listeners about the danger of the Internet. Strange, really, since that's pretty much how Richard X made his bones, back when he was working as Girls on Top. His strip-mined singles that paired TLC's "No Scrubs" with Human League's "Being Boiled" ("Being Scrubbed") and Missy Elliott's "She's a Bitch" with the Normal's "Warm Leatherette" ("Warm Bitch") were burned and bartered online more often than they were actually sold. Even he owns up to the apparent hypocrisy: Underneath the anti-piracy business, he asks, "Has Richard X sold out?"
So you can't hold too much against him, especially since EMI gives Richard X access to its catalogue to cut and paste as he sees fit on X-Factor Vol. 1. "Being Boiled" shows up again, this time paired with a revamp of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody"; the result, "Being Nobody," is an electromagnetic pulse that makes the 1980s seem earthy -- in a good way. Human League gets even more love on "Finest Dreams," a tag team of its "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of" and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis' "The Finest" fronted by gifted singer Kelis that makes you wonder why she isn't a bigger star. She could sing over a dial tone and make it work.
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Elsewhere, Deborah Evans-Stickland, late of New Wave novelty the Flying Lizards, turns up for a version of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David chestnut "Walk on By" recorded for play over the PA at Heathrow Airport; you half expect her to direct someone to the red courtesy phone. Soul II Soul's Caron Wheeler and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker (with sampled assistance from Mazzy Starr) also help bring Richard X's car-crash vision to life. It's a more thought-out (and certainly more official) take on the sloppy mash-ups that permeate the Net now as much as pop-up ads. No, Richard X hasn't sold out. But maybe you should buy in.