Album Review: Chromeo

The eighties are forever eternal. Recycled through popular culture, we pine over the John Hughes movies, we secretly long for the touch of fluorescent polyester and the reassuring nostalgia of decades past. But what of the music? For too long we’ve shunned the synths and stadium drum sounds of our parents’ generation, shelved them somewhere between the glam rock of the late 70s and the grungy days of the early 90s. A distant memory occasionally taken out for your parents’ 50th but immediately returned to gather dust. Sonically the 80s were that era we just couldn’t appreciate with time; like a cheap wine, it soured to vinegar, unpalatable by our modern tongues and spat out into the dregs of popular culture, largely untouched by modern artists. That is until now.

‘White Women’, Chromeo’s fourth full length album is an unashamedly kitschy, retro work that runs rampant with 80s synths and funk, creating a record that’s inherently vintage yet maintains an edge of modern pop perfection. Taking it’s name from the work of erotic photographer Helmut Newton and receiving it’s official media release as a missed connections listing on Craigslist, the Montreal duo described the record’s sound as “Larry David Funk”. A notion that lead singer Dave Macklovitch (better known as Dave 1) expressed as, “a combination of sexy, funky, macho music with neurotically love-torn lyrics.” So what does this Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque funk sound like on record?

‘White Women’ kicks off with recent single ‘Jealous (I Ain’t With It)’ a song charged with driving guitars as Dave 1 chimes, “Back in 2011 I decided not to let this play with my mind. But when the boys from out of town, they come around, I feel like committing a crime.” ‘Over Your Shoulder’ is the album’s undeniable stand-out track with Macklovitch at his lyrical best: smooth, playful, seductive; the man exudes casual confidence as he whimsically croons over gliding funk-filled basslines and rising synths, “See your problems of self esteem could be self-fulfilling prophecies, so arguably your best policy should be talking to me.” Such lyrical witticisms are evident throughout all of ‘White Women’ with Dave 1 bringing a level of raunchy humour previously unseen in the duo’s work. Case in point is ‘Sexy Socialite’. Frenetic, fast paced disco with the driving drums of LCD Soundsystem’s Pat Mahoney creating an instantly recognizable sound and Dave 1 cheekily creating an effective call and response with the unidentified socialite bluntly uttering, “Why you coming at me homie, with so much acrimony? Your testimony’s phony and the truth is you don’t know me.” This playfulness continues in ‘Frequent Flyer’ a Kraftwerk-esque track which sees the duo at their funk peak, combined with charismatic house vocals and an inflight announcement, all on top of Macklovitch waxing lyrical about in flight love.

The album isn’t all fun and games though, with P Thugg and Dave 1 cleverly engaging disco sounds with a more emotional tone. Indeed, at times, ‘White Women’ is the backing track to pure heart break. This is best seen on final track, ‘Fall Back 2 U’, a melancholic track matched with sweeping disco strings with P Thugg and Dave 1 driving the repeated message, “Never too late to try,” as the track fades slowly into nothingness. Similarly ‘Play the Fool’ is loaded with regret over a series of darker synth tones with Dave 1 reminiscing, “It’s just one of those hazy memories… I was in the mood for loving.”

The duo make use of interesting and effective collaborations throughout ‘White Women’, whether it’s Solange’s soulful, playful contribution on ‘Lost on the Way Home’ to the featuring of chillwave pioneer Toro Y Moi on leading single ‘Come Alive’. A song wrought with energy and full of potential to become the unexpected hit of the summer. Throughout the entirety of ‘White Women’ the collaborations feel natural, effective and in the words of Dave 1, “show that our music aims to create this dialogue between two periods.” Even ‘Ezra’s Interlude’ a cheesy piano and 808 driven track is strangely fitting, with the Vampire Weekender’s falsetto contrasting nicely against the deep tones of Dave 1.

‘White Women’ is Chromeo’s undeniable shedding of their fringe band status, there’s something about it that’s more accessible than their previous works, more laden with potential hits, more danceable. Testament to this is the album’s recent number one debut spot on the itunes charts. This being Chromeo’s tenth year together, Dave 1 commented on the importance of the album stating, “it’s a big commitment to each other, and not only to each other but to a genre of music that we’ve fought long and hard to rehabilitate.” Not only have the band rehabilitated these previously forlorn genres, they’ve reinvigorated them, adding poppy new twists that are undeniably modern. Ultimately it’s an album that stays comfortably straddled, keeping one foot in its fondness for nostalgia and another firmly in the modern zeitgeist.

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