We Looked Back on All 27 of Basement Jaxx's Singles - and They're Fucking Brilliant

No, they really are.

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Jul 29 2014, 5:40pm

Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe - aka Basement Jaxx – are one of the consistently best singles act that Britain has given to the world. Yes, even better than Girls Aloud. ('Walk This Way' with Sugababes: #neverforget) With the duo's 7th full-length Junto out next month, a full UK tour on the horizon and a Bestival set this Saturday, we decided to run through all 27 (!!!) of their singles, from 1996's 'Samba Magic', to the recent 'Never Say Never'. We're sure that you can't wait to tell us we were wrong for placing [insert song here] at [insert ranking here], so let's get straight into this Very Serious Official Ranking of This Century's Greatest Singles Act, discussing the best and worst parts of each song along the way. And we remind you that 'worst' is relative when talking about The Jaxx.

27. 'Do Your Thing' (XL Recordings, 2002)

Okay, scratch what I said about "worst" being "relative". Basement Jaxx's sophomore record Rooty has a pretty unbelievable range of hits. Some will range low on this list, others will be remarkably high, but they are all fan favourites. They're songs that people L-O-V-E. And then there is the last single from the Rooty promo cycle, 'Do Your Thing', a remarkably smug piece of car commercial lite-jazz. There are a lot of interesting approaches that the Jaxx hold towards eclecticism, and it's usually fascinating to hear how they bounce genres off one another beyond "dance music meets [blank]". Yet 'Do Your Thing' is defined by one simple equation and little else: ragtime joy times limp house beats equals ugh. It's pretty awful.

BEST BIT

02:24 – Guest vocalist Elliot May's burst of "clap your hands!" has a little bit of cheerful Sunday School teacher pep in its delivery.

WORST BIT

Pretty much everything else. Let's not dwell on this, guys.

26. 'Never Say Never Feat. ETML' (Atlantic Jaxx/PIAS, 2014)

Last week, Saman Kash's video for 'Never Say Never' hit the net, showcasing a glossy futuristic romance and robot butts. I'm burying the lede here: there are twerking robots. Wrap your head around that for a moment. Alas, Kash's video soundtracks some pretty ordinary house, with an staccato heavenly-keyboard refrain, bland lead vocals from the Sam Smith-alike ETML and little in the way of the group's audio Easter eggs. As a track set to truly kickstart the run-up to next month's Junto, it's a pretty tame affair. As you'll notice, the Jaxx are better the less they pay attention to the rules of the dance scene that birthed them – on 'Never Say Never' they sound like Johnny Come Lately's to a chart trend, something that is quite unlike them. And you can't twerk to it either.

BEST BIT

02:44 - Some melodic cooing that is off-key enough to feel charmingly wonky.

WORST BIT

00:35 - Not terrible, to be honest, but this is the moment you realise that 'Never Say Never' is going to be little more than a Marbella summer stepper. I've never seen an episode of TOWIE before, but I'm totally imagining an episode of TOWIE right now.

25. 'Plug It In Feat. J.C.Chasez' (XL Recordings. 2004)

When Justin Timberlake threw a hastily-assembled bone towards his ex-NSYNC bandmates at last year's VMAs, it was not the pop glory you wished for – the group were slackened in their delivery, and unable to hit their marks as dancers. Time spoils everything, it's a flat circle, etc., etc. But the worst part was JC Chasez, the other lead singer in the mega-popular boy band, letting out a hopeful howl of "BABYYYYY" immediately after the performance, as though he wanted to remind every A&R in the building that he was available. Time has not been kind to his chances, and neither has it been to his Jaxx collaboration 'Plug It In'.

At the time, Buxton and Ratcliffe seemed like a smart team to help differentiate Chasez from the ascendant Timberlake, offering up an update of the clubby maximalism that BT made on NSYNC's 2001 single 'Pop'. Listening to the single now, it's hard to tell who the record is for. The Jaxx crunch away in various different directions during the chorus and amble aimlessly during the bubbly verses; Chasez never finds a delivery he's comfortable with, alternating between dramatically under-singing and chewing the scenery. A shame, because Chasez' 2004 solo album Schizophrenic contains a Buxton/Ratcliffe collaboration ('Shake It') that is about 10 times better than 'Plug It In'.

BEST BIT

00:55 – The chorus allows someone to let loose with some absolutely primal roaring, which is pretty hilarious.

WORST BIT

01:16 – Shame on whoever saddled Chasez with singing the creepiest line on any Basement Jaxx single: "All I want / is what's kicking inside your skin". CALL SECURITY.

24.'Back 2 The Wild' (37 Adventures, 2013)

One first instinct, 'Back 2 the Wild' is the sound of The Jaxx taking all their creative impulses to the messiest and most annoying possible place: their busy layering of sounds turns into audio assault, their approach to staying out of the way of their collaborators turns into Emma Lee & Baby Chay's one-note nyah-nyah routine, their infectious sense of humour turned into an aimless sprawl of lion noises and anti-erotic slurs of "let's get naaakeedddd!!!!" On second instinct, well, it's exactly the same, but the song's saving graces are more noticeable. A bridge consisting of a tough-sounding horn section gives way to some wildly atonal synthesizer; the outro offers glimpses at a fascinating merging of art-pop and deep house, like Tom Tom Club jamming with Kerri Chandler. There's some terrific ideas here, but they're up against a lot of obnoxious howling that thinks it's way more fun than it thinks it is. Proof: "Let's get naaakeedddd!!!!"

BEST BIT

02:13 – The track suddenly swerves into some real badass, horn-led action movie trailer shit courtesy of the Ketabul Studio All-Stars. Those horns were apparently recorded in Kenya, and if that's true, they were worth the price of the plane flight alone.

WORST BIT

00:43 – "Let's get naaakeedddd!!!!" Ugh, get in the bin.

23. 'Romeo' (XL Recordings, 2001)

I have never been more disappointed seeing a headlining act than when I saw Basement Jaxx at Pukkelpop (uhhh have fun at Bestival guys?), and a big reason behind that is the group's decision to strip 'Romeo' down to acoustic guitar and vocals. 'Romeo', Rooty's lead single, is all forward-motion, a relentless percussive machine. It pushes and pushes and pushes until it crumbles away in its final ten seconds. It made no sense to strip a song that lived and died on its forward-motion of its beat. I was pissed off, as you could imagine. But what felt like sacrilege on a Friday night in a cold Belgian field now seems like a half-smart attempt to give the song something. Bless its heart, but 'Romeo' is all perpetual motion and little else. Kele Le Roc does her best with her guest spot, finding moments of grace in her jilted lover guise, but 'Romeo' smothers any emotion in its aggressive pulse.

BEST BIT

02:21 – There is a glorious middle-eight where Le Roc is allowed to cut loose and inject some emotion into a track that has been all sass and little more. Her reading of "you left me laying there with a broken heart" stings...

WORST BIT

02:29 - ...before turning back to the original melody, aka the only melody, aka this song goes nowhere.

22. 'U Don't Know Me' (XL Recordings, 2005)

'Good Luck' introduced much of the world to the pipes of Bellrays vocalist Lisa Kekaula, and pushed her kiss-off single to arena status. 'U Don't Know Me' is another kiss-off, but is nowhere near as euphoric as that earlier single. Instead, it's Buxton and Ratcliffe taking on a writing exercise – writing a rock song. Of course, a Basement Jaxx version of a rock song is different from anything you'll catch playing in your local dive bar. Beatboxing abounds, drums splinter and seethe, xylophones chime in on the action, backing vocalists offer more joyful "woo"s than you would expect. The verses feel underwritten, sadly leaving the game Kekaula to run through filler lines until the chorus hits, but that chorus (and its many embellishments) makes for sassy fun.

BEST BIT

02:36 – Keyboard solo!

WORST BIT

01:10 – A sound effect like a record scratching triggers fears that Buxton and Ratcliffe think that "rock music" means "rap-metal".

21. 'Jus 1 Kiss' (XL Recordings, 2001)

It bares repeating that Chic didn't just make joyous confetti music. Every now and again they could bust out a lovelorn slowie like 1989's 'You Can't Do It Alone' without skimping on Nile Rodgers' famously staccato guitar licks. On that track, Alfa Anderson walks through the rigmarole of repairing a relationship and saying goodbye to "the me decade". His vocals fade away, quietly swallowed by a Spanish guitar. 'Jus 1 Kiss' samples this disco deep cut and offers a lighter, sprightlier take on the relationship at hand with a simple catch-all fix to any problem... you guessed it, a kiss! It's Balearic bubblegum of the highest order, and actually a little anonymous in practice, but this attempt at formulating happy endings for the disco generation is pretty cute.

BEST BIT

01:38 – The softly-crooned "la la la" refrain wisps by sweetly.

WORST BIT

02:40 – An oddly-mixed instrumental break takes way too long to rip back into the "la la la" refrain. Have you ever looked at your watch when listening to a Nile Rodgers lick before?

20. 'Unicorn' (Altantic Jaxx/PIAS, 2014)

The problem with 'Never Say Never' is that it shows the boys at their most ordinary, and ordinary is never a term you would normally associate with The Jaxx. So why is 'Unicorn' higher up this list? Well, for one thing, it ignores the charts and turns to the past, acting as pure nostalgia: it's the best 1992 throwback the group have ever made. However, it's almost shocking just how down-the-line Buxton and Ratcliffe are with 'Unicorn'. Perhaps after nearly two decades of ADD genre-juggling, the most shocking thing they can do is not shock. 

BEST BIT

00:08 – A murky-voiced gentleman commands us to "jump in!" Okay, I'm turning my brain off for the next four minutes.

WORST BIT

04:00 – Wait, the vocalist (uncredited at this moment in time) just promised "it's gonna be off the hook!" one last time as the song ended, and now I can't help but feel she's telling me that Junto is gonna be good and not to worry. Should house music have disclaimers?

19. 'Feelings Gone Feat. Sam Sparro' (XL Recordings, 2009)

I won't say he was ahead of his time – that would be giving him a little too much credit – but Sam Sparro was certainly cheated out of the current swathe of silken-voiced male cameo vocal machines. (See 'Never Say Never' vocalist ETML, or throw a stone at a dance act in the charts, and there'll be an okay enough male vocalist carousing behind 'em.) 'Feelings Gone' is a chance for Sparro to flex his vocal muscles, and he does everything short of bench-pressing his larynx. It's a performance that doesn't know where to stop, but with an act as sonically busy as The Jaxx, his lack of restraint flourishes. However, it suffers as the middle single off 2009's Scars album, lacking the romanticism of 'Raindrops' or the heart-on-sleeve earnestness of 'My Turn'. There's a load of capital-E Emotions going on in 'Feelings Gone', but its showiness stops it from truly connecting.

BEST BIT

02:41 – Sparro squealing goes full-on Little Richard.

WORST BIT

02:28 – A choir moves about in the background, and you get that odd feeling where the Jaxx may have overdone it a bit here.

18. 'Hey U' (XL Recordings, 2007)

Robyn is one of modern pop's finest representatives for electronic music, from making records with Royksopp on this year's 'Do It Again' to littering her own records with hard beats as suited for Berghain as they are for beach parties. But the Jaxx are not your regular electronic music representatives, so they do the obvious thing with their guest, which is to stick them into the middle of a Romani, brass-themed piss-up. As always with the group, it's audacious and a lot of fun, but as the final single from 2006's Crazy Itch Radio it's a genuine head-scratcher.

BEST BIT

03:01 – For a house group that's put together a lot of builds in the past, the speed-ramping applied to Fanfare Ciocărlia's 'Asfalt Tango' is one of their most creative - and most fun.

WORST BIT

02:08 – Realising that Robyn isn't actually going to join in on the Greek chorus advising her romantic turmoil, which is narratively solid if a bit of a bummer. Robyn comes across so composed in her music, even when being heartbroken or a goofball: you'd like her to really shake it all out with Buxton and Ratcliffe for a quick moment.

17. 'Lucky Star Feat. Dizzee Rascal' (XL Recordings, 2003)

Before Aaron LaCrate, before Calvin Harris, long before that fucking song with RedOne and Jessie J, Dizzee Rascal's first dance hook-up was with Buxton and Ratcliffe. 'Lucky Star' was an odd choice for the first single from 2003's Kish Kash, seeing as it was meant to work as a showcase for the Jaxx's rookie label-mate at XL, and the collaboration feels a little forced. Dizzee hadn't learned how to navigate a happy medium between his hosts' over-stacked energy and his own comparatively skeletal music. It's more fascinating than it is a great Basement Jaxx single, but that fascination captures the Dizzee we loved the most – opening up to the musical world around him, still Raskit at heart, still a couple albums away from turning into a national treasure.

BEST BIT

01:18 – The track calms down for a moment (of course, retaining a huge swiping saw synth all the while) for Dizzee to flash a smile and tell a redemption story: "I've come a little long way in a little long time/ from doing street robberies and petty crime... / I would just like to say I feel great!"

WORST BIT

02:59 – The Jaxx's penchant for off-kilter samples backfires when you hear the constant parp of... well, something that sounds like a fart. Sometimes too much is too much, fellas.

16. 'Bingo Bango' (XL Recordings, 2000)

Buxton and Radcliffe enjoy regularly returning to the well of Latin American music and while their enthusiasm towards digging for salsa classics cannot be faulted, it can offer up some of their chintziest material. Like 1996's 'Samba Magic', 'Bingo Bango' is largely based around a sample (this time, Bolivar's 'Meringue'); unlike that earlier song, it feels tired, unable to build on the energy of its sampled original. It showcases the act's appreciation of Latin American but doesn't build on it or do much more to grab your interest. All that being said, 'Bingo Bango' is a great title for a song.

BEST BIT

02:28 – The 'Meringue' sample fades into the background and becomes a hum, while electronic percussion rattles in and out of the speakers. It's a moment of much-needed tension.

WORST BIT

00:14 – I usually love the yelps that jump out on Basement Jaxx songs, but the "Aiiiieeee!" that arrives right before the beat kicks in always felt pretty fake. More 'Latin' than, well, actually Latin.

15. 'Fly Life' (Rotate Records, 1997)

It all began here, in a glittery explosion of house and ragga, Glamma Kid toasting and disembodied pleas of "make love to me!!!" 'Fly Life' was Basement Jaxx's first charting single in the UK, and while it lacks the sophistication of their later material, it works on pure power alone. The whole song is a burst of nonsense, pulsating with so many elements that miraculously never sound jarring. Even this early on, they understood how to curate multi-genre chaos into something danceable. It's a little dated, as a lot of Nineties house can sometimes be, but it's the first real step for Buxton and Ratcliffe towards becoming a great pop act.

BEST BIT

00:01 – I'm a stickler for the shattered vocal samples and ramped-up dub SFX that kick off 'Fly Life'. It's an effective red alert for everyone to down their drinks and bolt to the dancefloor ASAP.

WORST BIT

Not strictly Basement Jaxx's fault, but Glamma Kid's appearance here led to me listening to 'Why' for the first time in years. Hoo boy, that is a bad song. (It also got me listening to the jiggy majesty of 'Sweetest Taboo' again, and I need to get married just to have that as the first dance. Hey laydeez.)

14. 'What A Difference Your Love Makes' (37 Adventures, 2013)

In Basement Jaxx's world, the influence of disco is never far, but it's usually chopped-up and reassembled for sampling use (see 'Jus 1 Kiss' and 'Hush Boy' for examples). 'What A Difference' is fairly straight-ahead for the group, and sounds like their cleanest, calmest attempt at recreating the glitterball glee of the disco era. Sure, there's swerves aplenty, as is custom with The Jaxx – folkie Sam Brookes takes lead vocals, toasting courtesy of Chicago house veteran DJ Sneak, OTT bursts of glass breaking, a rumbling interlude that goes heavy on the bass – but it's pretty concise coming from them. It's like one of their Chic samples, fed through their idiosyncratic world-view without losing its traditional shape. You could call it a happy medium.

BEST BIT

01:11 – This guitar lead doesn't care how corny it seems, and knows you're already doing air guitar to it.

WORST BIT

03:01 – Hey, talkbox guitar solo! Swee- oh, that's the end of the song. Dammit, I got in this guitar solo pose for nothing.

13. 'Red Alert' (XL Recordings,1999)

There is always a hint of chaos lurking within Basement Jaxx's music, seeing how songs are stuffed to burst with jokes, musical allusions and layers upon layers of combating voices. 'Red Alert' – aka the track that introduced much of the record-buying public to the duo – has all of those elements in spades. It uses a riff from Seventies group Locksmith, then throws a vaudeville-era melody called 'Streets of Cairo' on top, cramming Locksmith's disco party alongside bits of belly-dancing music. The 'Streets of Cairo' melody is yelped by a group of friends, who make a racket throughout.

Lead singer Belinda James howls alongside the group whenever she's not singing. But what James is singing about is catastrophic, a plea for people to lose themselves in the music and to escape all that is wrong with the world. 'Red Alert' should sound like cathartic release, but a paranoiac edge creeps amongst all that sonic madness. With this single, Basement Jaxx invited the whole world to their party but forgot to tell them one rule: leave all your problems at the door. No wonder something this frayed would be called 'Red Alert'.

BEST BIT

00:39 – The chorus kicks in with an underrated, wild-sounding theremin lead. The Jaxx are good at throwing out some theremin when they can.

WORST BIT

02:15 – The cringe-inducing howl of "SAY WHAT?!" is a clunky reach towards coolness.

12. 'Jump N' Shout Feat. Slarta John' (XL Recordings, 1999)

Glamma Kid's brief 'Fly Life' cameo suggested otherwise, rest assured that the gentlemen of Basement Jaxx know their dancehall and reggae culture. Did you know that Ratcliffe runs a sound system in his spare time, named after the dub reggae legend King Tubby? 'Jump and Shout' is the band flexing their bonafides, and the rubbery beat is the closest they've come to making a riddim. Slarta John keeps the song's energy high with his best wild-eye act – his manic howling of the title sounds as though he's trying to eat the microphone whole – but it raises a tantalising concept of Ratcliffe and Buxton shopping riddims to the Caribbean's finest. (I would kill to hear Baby Cham bug out over this.) As it stands, 'Jump 'N Shout' is a fun burst of energy. It's a lot less ornate than their bigger hits, but as raw as the group ever get in their escapades.

BEST BIT

00:22 – The Jaxx's deftly slide in a sound effect from NWA's 'Express Yourself', and those horn squeals follow. This is about to get wild.

WORST BIT

03:33 – The energy peters out with a wobbling sound effect, ie. the song just stops. Which is slightly disappointing.

11. 'Good Luck Feat. Lisa Kekuala' (XL Recordings, 2004)

Fun fact: 'Good Luck' is by far the most popular Basement Jaxx song on Spotify. Like, over a million plays more popular than its closest competitor. People love this song. Part of this may be that it was the theme song to the BBC's Euro 2004 coverage, but 'Good Luck' deserves that popularity for being a turbo-charged pop song. Even for an act as busy-busy in their songwriting as the Jaxx, this is a bonafide maximalist stint: huge vocals from a rock'n'roll singer, a massive assortment of backing vocals ('Romeo' vocalist Kele Le Roc returns!), cut 'n' paste sonics (chirping birds, incessant beatboxing, huge drum fills), a freaking orchestra. Vocalist Lisa Kekaula sells the hell out of the lyrics, turning an emotional kiss-off into a cathartic statement of intent – she's wishing the best of luck on herself as much as she is granting it to her ex. It's an anthem, and it's actually quite surprising that Buxton and Radcliffe haven't been behind as many singles as arena-sized as 'Good Luck'. Perhaps this is a real one-off for them.

BEST BIT

02:38 – The London Session Orchestra kicks in with the strings, electric guitars crackle loudly and Kekaula leads her battalion of backing singers in a chant of "no – more – lies!" Few moments in the Jaxx discography feel as huge as this. You'll probably feel like you've scored a goal or climbed a mountain or received a sizeable tax refund at this point.

WORST BIT

03:32 – The radio edit on The Singles cuts off before the album version's rave-bass breakdown finale, which is nothing less than sacrilege.

10. 'Get Me Off' (Astralwerks, 2002)

'Get Me Off' is not on Basement Jaxx' The Singles compilation, which is weird for a number of reasons. It performed better than both 'Jus 1 Kiss' and 'Do Your Thing' on the UK charts despite being the 4th (!!!) single off Rooty. It also holds an intriguing backtory, originating as a demo written for Janet Jackson's 'All For You'. Jackson turned down the song, but it's obvious to see that it was written for her – the buzzing erotica and almost gothic textures aren't actually that far off from Rockwilder's work on that album, even if there isn't much intended space for Jackson to sing. It also contains its own weird relationship to stardom, with the Jaxx inviting house legend Derrick Carter to mumble nasty come-ons throughout the track. It's a fine song, but it seems adrift within the Jaxx's singles discography: sexually charged without the humour of 'Oh My Gosh', pummelling but lacking the rock 'n' roll populism of 'Where's Your Head At'. It's strange that the group didn't recognise it in their own best-of compilation, but you can understand the omission: it simply doesn't fit.

BEST BIT

01:18 – The house synth stabs on the chorus are absolutely brutal sounding, almost haunted-house frightening. See how weird this is for a Basement Jaxx single? Basement Jaxx are a lot of things, but they're not scary.

WORST BIT

03:44 – Basement Jaxx's crack team of backing singers are usually terrific, but the vocalist at this point sounds unpracticed and pretty aimless. Janet Jackson isn't the best vocalist, but at least her whisper-voice had some precision behind it.

9. 'Samba Magic' (Atlantic Jaxx, 1995)

In an interview with the Daily Mirror in 2009, Buxton discussed how he and Ratcliffe started making music in response to the "hard Nazi beats" of European dance music. "We had the unfashionable idea of making deep spiritual American-sounding underground house music," he said, which is where 'Samba Magic' comes in. To be fair, 'Samba Magic' is as indebted to the Balearic-beat tradition as it is to US house: the major-key eclecticism, the liberal use of Latin influences (heavy sampling of Airto Moreira's 'Samba de Flora' abounds), the euphoric feel. It's that sense of euphoria that pushes 'Samba Magic' close to spirituality, cherry-picking the best pieces of Moreira's 1988 composition. The duo would return to the Brazilian sound multiple times over their career as a singles act, but rarely would that approach sound this light and soulful.

BEST BIT

03:38 – For a split second, the samba beat drops away and leaves the gloriously chunky synth line to take precedence. That synth isn't in Moreira's original recording, and it's a lovely improvement.

WORST BIT

03:03 - The vocal samples are a little on-the-nose, as though to remind you "YES, THIS SONG HAS SAMBA IN THE TITLE. SAMBA SAMBA SAMBA." Because, duh, we wouldn't have known otherwise.

8. 'Raindrops' (XL Recordings, 2009)

It is not unusual for Buxton to sing on Basement Jaxx songs, but it is unusual to be allowed a peek at his voice without any digital modulation. On 1999's 'Rendez-vu', he stood front and centre with a robotic purr, turning that song's romantic drama into something slightly alien. 'Raindrops' finds Buxton's voice slathered in autotune and pitch-distorted, singing earnestly about a distant lover. Instead of using vocal modulation to alienate the listener and create distance, Buxton uses it to heighten the emotions at the centre of certain Basement Jaxx songs. The vocal performances and major-chord crashes recall 'Rendez-Vu', but 'Raindrops' builds on that earlier track's romantic mood with wide-screen grandeur. That earlier song sounded intimate, which gives it the emotional edge over 'Raindrops', but this one sounds like it can be heard across galaxies.

BEST BIT

03:30 – Buxton sings "when I want you / I'll follow you" at the song's closing, and it sounds more like a heartfelt vow than a stalker's mission statement. The Auto-Tune helps.

WORST BIT

02:06 – The prog-rock keyboard bridge that pops up here needs a little more space, at least to satisfy the prog-rock kid inside of me.

7. 'Make Me Sweat' (Altlantic Jaxx, 2007)

One of The Jaxx's biggest hits is, strictly speaking, not theirs: a 2002 remix of Missy Elliott's ecstasy-sweatbox anthem '4 My People', a remix so big in the UK that a video was hastily assembled from the end of Elliott's own 'Take Away' promo. (That video turns from an Aaliyah tribute into an ultra-patriotic post-9/11 anthem. The early Noughties were full of weird whiplash pathos like that.) If you talk to the casual British music fan, there's a chance that they only know Buxton and Ratcliffe's take on '4 My People', something the duo acknowledge by having Elliott's hollers resurface at the start of 'Make Me Sweat'.

Sonically, we're in 'Get Me Off' mode with a return to that track's pulsating minor-key raunch but everything feels a lot more fun, helped along by a Roxanne Shante appearance. Shante - heavily influential Eighties female rapper, founding member of the legendary Juice Crew, Rick James duet partner – makes the most of her allotted time, and with Elliott's sampled yelps lingering in the background, Buxton and Ratcliffe draw a lineage between their own music and the lineage of strong female hip-hop figures that occupy their world. Shante is a spiritual and stylistic precursor to Elliott, and that's undoubtedly why she gets such a huge look here.

BEST BIT

01:55 – "Hip-hop, soul, a little bit of punk / a little bit of crunk, a little bit of disco / drum 'n' bass, a little bit of house / a little bit electro, all of that!" Roxanne Shante, breaking down the multi-genre Basement Jaxx mission statement more succinctly than anyone else could.

WORST BIT

05:41 – Having pushed their energy to the brink, Buxton and Ratcliffe abruptly stop the song. It's kinda cool, but it's also kind of a bad habit the duo have with ending high-energy songs. END YOUR SONGS, DUDES.

6. 'Take Me Back To Your House' (XL Recordings, 2006)

So, melancholy orchestral rockabilly pop-house? You can't 100% trust the Jaxx's instincts (refer to 'Do Your Thing' in case you forgot) but here, they are totally on the ball – all the craziness falls into place. After a sullen, Miami Vice-esque moody intro, Dragonette vocalist Martina Sorbara sings off-handedly over the sound of banjos about desperate loneliness. It's a hair's breadth away from tumbling into chaos, but sticks the landing the more intensely that Sorbara sells her solitariness.

BEST BIT

03:04 – The bridge suddenly swerves into tense, atonal mood music and Sorbara begins to beg: "I'm so lonely, can I come home with you?"

WORST BIT

02:18 – Buxton and Ratcliffe halt the song's forward motion, stripping the music away to a house-style thump. There's nothing wrong with it – it's a nice quirk in the song's structure – but it seems to appear just for the purpose of reminding you that The Jaxx did use to make what you'd call "house music" in ye olde days. It's a small identity crisis, almost as if the duo are reluctant to admit they've become an amazing pop group. Don't worry, guys. You're doing great.

5. 'My Turn' (XL Recordings, 2009)

BEST BIT

02:04 – There are plenty of reasons why 'My Turn' is a song to swoon over, Cher Horowitz-style: Dev Hynes (featured under his pre-indie hitmaker guise as Lightspeed Champion) plucking on-and-off at his guitar. The unexpected but welcome arrival of taiko drums. Jenny Lau's lovely violin soloing. French whispers, sounding as though they've jumped straight out of a Gainsbourg album. Additional melodies – in this case, a bassline of do-do-do singing - slowly, subtly rising to the surface. Buxton and Ratcliffe's strong forward momentum, their staccato synth buzzes drawing all elements together and making 'My Turn' sound and feel like a coherent whole. All of the above kick in, bit by bit, at 02:04. For a duo that have showcased some undeniably lovely dance music and carried one hell of a starry-eyed romantic streak, this could be their loveliest, most starry-eyed, most romantic moment in their entire discography. Just... swoon.

WORST BIT

There is a radio edit of this. Nope, you need to luxuriate in all 5 minutes of this.

4. 'OH MY GOSH' (XL Recordings 2005)

Sometimes Buxton and Ratcliffe's stuffed-to-the-brims eclecticism is simply too much for them to control, as you've seen with other entries on this list. At other points, they'll push their kitchen-sink to comedic extremes. 'Oh My Gosh' presents a story where UKG veteran Vula Malinga meets a guy in a nightclub and they peacock around each other, trying to out-sex one another and get each others' number. Sounds ordinary enough, but Buxton and Ratcliffe milk the situation to cartoonish extremes, pushing a giggly Malinga to play-act each lyric and every ad-lib.

The pitch-perfect "UMMMMM" in response to seeing if she got her romancer's number is a laugh-out-loud moment: it practically screams "Why didn't I think of that?!" Jaxx collaborator Skillah pops up to slur a head-over-heels rap, sounding like D Double E as a randy cartoon wolf. The music revels in this animated madness, hopping from Minneapolis funk to proto-Rustie middle-eights with as many bird chirpings, beatboxing and 'Rendez-Vu' guitar as the song can take. It's a lot of fun.

BEST BIT

00:45 - Vula Malinga selling a dumber-than-dumb chat-up line about how many sugars you like in your tea (because she's sweet, get it), somehow making it as sexy as it is inane.

WORST BIT

00:07 – Horror-movie strings kick the song off and go absolutely nowhere, which is a little like starting off a flirtatious conversation with a lengthy belch.

3. 'Where's Your Head At' (XL Recordings/Atlantic Jaxx, 2001)

'Where's Your Head At?' isn't the highest-charting Basement Jaxx single - having been pipped to the post by 'Rendez-Vu' and 'Red Alert' in the UK and 'Bingo Bango' on the US dance charts – but is undoubtedly Their Song, the one that will define them long after they stop making music. Prior to this song, The Jaxx's single discography was rarely as direct or as pummelling. 'Jump N Shout' was the closest as an unstoppable racket, but 'Where's Your Head At?' is far more powerful. Buxton and Ratcliffe have rarely presented their busy-busy formula in as perfect a package as they have here: off-the-wall cross-genre sampledelica (this time, two glam-stomp Gary Numan songs), a chaotic assemblage of vocals and noises, that paranoiac skittishness dating back to 'Red Alert' ("don't let the walls cave in on you"), a hard house pulse to mark their dancefloor bonafides... It shouldn't be surprising that the group can pack a lot into one song, but they haven't gone for the throat as successfully as they did here. This one is a monster.

BEST BIT

00:37 – A voice commands the Jaxx: "DROP IT." Then, those huge drums crash in over you. You now are under their control.

WORST BIT

03:40 – One of the four credited vocalists – including Erick Morillo and Junior Sanchez – does a pitch-perfect impression of rapper Noreaga, and I'm annoyed it took me this long to realise it was there.

2. 'Rendez Vu' (XL Recordings, 1999)

Back in August 1999, an 11-year old me went to Woolworths and bought two cassette singles. The first was Destiny Child's 'Bills Bills Bills'; the second was the Basement Jaxx's 'Rendez-Vu'. While 'Bills Bills Bills' was plenty immersive - a tightly-wound riposte towards the scrubs I hoped to never become - 'Rendez-Vu' captured my imagination. It felt otherworldly, mixing together traditional flamenco guitar and vocals filtered through a vocoder. I had learnt from music classes that the flamenco guitar was a narrative tool, used to soundtrack fiery dances and even fierier romances. What I could make out of the vocals spoke of practicalities: I learned 'rendez-vu' [sic] was a juiced-up term for 'meet up'.

At first it puzzled me: why should I feel so much emotion from a song about simply meeting someone? By the end of the week, I realised that the song was meant to evoke that giddy anything-can-happen excitement when you met someone exciting. The flamenco drama, the futuristic vocals, that video about rock-paper-scissors and a dreaming dog – each factor helped to transform everyday reality into something exciting. And unlike a lot of songs I remember liking as an 11 year old, this holds up: the everyday still sounds exciting when this song is on.

BEST BIT

03:14 – The final round of roboticised requests for a rendezvous dovetail into a flurry of guitar strums. Very dramatic.

WORST BIT

02:05 – I'm going to say the machine-gun glitch drums that appear for a moment are the worst bit, but that's like saying it's the last tasty Oreo. It's still gonna taste great.

1. 'Hush Boy' (XL Recordings, 2006)

'Hush Boy' is pretty much flawless. Over a pair of duelling samples by defunct funk band 9th Creation, 'Oh My Gosh' alumni Vulu Malinga returns to walk us through a date with an overcompensating fella, with the same mix of sultriness and comic timing that made that previous hit so great. Here, the tone is lighter and the situation funnier, with drinks flying everywhere and half-built fajita restaurants, failed Lothario transitions, and an amazing Greek chorus howling the subtext on the chorus: "YOU WAN' ME FOR YOUR GIRLFRIEND?!". It's sitcom-pop, as comfortable and smile-inducing as a classic Only Fools and Horses episode but never becomes overbearing or contrived. Everybody is firing on all cylinders, from Malinga to the bonus horn section, and the 9th handled perfectly. It's never anything less than utterly joyous, and that's before we even get to the spinning-plates R&B interlude and puppy-dog rap verse. It's The Jaxx's finest single and a smile-inducing amalgamation of what makes them such a terrific singles act.

BEST BIT

00:55 – Malinga turns the word "intoxicated" into melismatic rapture; in the background, she cut to the chase in a deadpan voice: "You look a bit drunk, love."

WORST BIT

If you squint, 'Oh My Gosh' and 'Hush Boy' are the first two instalments in an unfinished Vulu Malinga trilogy. Who do we blame for turning these into the Basement Jaxx equivalent of the Hellboy movies? (I mean, those movies are great but we could have done with one more.)

You can follow Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy on Twitter here: @danielmondon