Chromeo: Business Casual

RIYL: Cameo, Zapp, Hall & Oates

If you’ve ever flipped the collar on an Izod shirt, owned a pair of Bugle Boy jeans, or purchased Hall & Oates’ Rock ‘n’ Soul, Part One on cassette or vinyl, Chromeo is your custom-built funky time machine – a synthy, vocoder-soaked trip to a parallel reality where musical history stopped in 1984. It was a pretty nifty trick the first couple of times around – and their last release, 2007’s Fancy Footwork, earned them a Daryl Hall endorsement and the ironic love of an audience too young to remember Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down – but most tributes to dead genres wear thin pretty quickly (see: Darkness, The). So it would be a mistake to expect similar results from their next album, right?


Maybe not. Business Casual doesn’t really add anything new to the Chromeo formula, but it doesn’t really need to – whether or not you believe P-Thugg and Dave 1 are serious, they’re really good at recreating that early ’80s vibe, to the point where you might find yourself wondering if you requested “The Right Type” on your local Top 40 station 25 years ago. Everything, from the buzzy synths to the soulful-but-not-too-soulful vocals, sounds like it’s being beamed in from a giant boom box on the planet Atari – and more importantly, the songs are as clever as they are catchy. It’s ultimately a fairly empty exercise, and if you’re old enough to remember when this sort of stuff was originally being made, it probably seems more than a little ridiculous to be witnessing a revival of something that was regarded as inherently disposable even when it was popular. What’s sillier, though: the idea of a band intentionally mimicking yacht soul, or the fact that Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” spent five weeks at Number One?

In the long run, it’ll be interesting to see where Chromeo takes this; even the artists they’re imitating moved on eventually, never to return. But hey, if they can deliver three albums that do this much with such a paper-thin gimmick, there might not be anything they can’t do. Break out the velour and pass the cocaine. (Atlantic 2010)

Chromeo MySpace page


Various Artists: Motown 50 – Yesterday, Today, Forever

How does a legendary label celebrate its 50th birthday? By inviting the public at large to vote on its 50 greatest hits, turning the results into a terrific 3-CD compilation…and then releasing it only in the UK. The upshot is that even though you’ll have to pay import prices for it – and even though anyone who’s interested in Motown probably already has copies of most, if not all, of these songs – Motown 50 is one of the more interesting and consistently interesting label retrospectives to come down the pike in quite some time. Much of this is owed to the strength of the catalog, of course, but still, Motown has never been a label known for playing fast and loose with its heritage, both of which make this the entry-level Hitsville compilation to own. If Motown 50 has a major drawback, it’s that it’s sequenced in order, meaning you start out listening to the classics (Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street”) and wind up with lesser entries like Lionel Richie’s “My Destiny”; it would have been better (and braver) to count down rather than up. But hey, that’s what the shuffle button is for – and when the label takes enough care to tack on 11 tracks of Motown artists covering (often left-field) hits, who can complain? When you can get the Elgins’ “Heaven Must Have Sent You” and Stevie Wonder covering “Light My Fire” in one compilation, all disagreements are minor. Now when is this getting an American release? (Motown 2008)

Motown 50 Official Site


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