1/13/2007

 

Music Review Cha-Cha (Part 1)

What’s been fading out, ker-chunk-ing, then fading back in lately on the Making Flippy Floppy 8-track tape deck?

LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (released 3/12/07)

Lead track “Get Innocuous” comes creeping in from the dank cellar of the disco, through a secret door in the middle of the dancefloor. Its grouchy dance music, like something Eno might have dreamt up if he’d never been hit by a car, or maybe if he’d died that accident and his ghost helped Giorgio Mododer produce Bowie’s Low instead. What if Talking Heads were signed to Factory Records in 1982? LCD man James Murphy conjures a realm of musical “what-ifs” throughout the excellently titled new album Sound of Silver. The DFA sound is in full glorious effect here, bone-dry beats, all crisp and bright; cow-ca-bell, cow-cow-ca-bell; one half-snatch of funk; comfortingly glib detachment; basslines that are simultaneously moody and booty; the analog love from granny’s antique thingybox. The album is actually perhaps not as reliant on studio wizardry as prior releases, many tracks push a more traditional approach, like the pounding pianos of “All My Friends,” the everyday funk of “Us Vs. Them,” or the post-post-punk rock of “Watch the Tapes,” which is the best track The Fall never recorded in 1985. Closer “New York I Love You” is an effective homage to Tranformer-era Lou Reed and longs for the gritty city the Big Apple was before it became a safe and Disney-fied. Lyrically, the irony level never quite approaches the heights attained on earlier LCD classics such as “Losing My Edge” or “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”, except “North American Scum” with it’s Jane Fonda aerobic vibe and shout-along vocals. “Something Great” is probably the best thing Murphy has ever written – the lyric is effective and sentimental without being at all cloying. The melody is something you can almost chew on – the rubbery synth bass could have been lifted from a lost Travelogue-era Human League demo, the chime of the bells evokes early OMD and you want to crawl into it like a warm, familiar synth pop quilt.

Strangest of all is the brilliant title track which repeats its awkward lyric endlessly, mantra-like, atop the most deliciously minimalist electronic funk since Kraftwerk played a little melody on their pocket calculators all those years ago. It’s an amazing track, and impossible not to move to, and it’s bleeps and bubbles slowly fade out to reveal – what else – an impossibly intricate cowbell riff was happening underneath the track the entire time. Sound of Silver looks to be one the essential albums of the year. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater” / Justin Timberlake – “My Love”

With few exceptions, I have never been able to resist anything producer Timbaland touches. The last few years seemed a little rough for him creatively, not even Missy wanted him around much. Happily, he seems full of fresh ideas recently and these two massive hits are modern pop at its absolute finest and most forward-looking. His sound is so instantly recognizable that his vision always comes though no matter what artists he is working with. He’s never afraid to branch out into new musical realms, bringing to

reality situations that seem absurd yet fully alive with possibility – he has recently worked on the new albums of Duran Duran and Bjork. “Maneater” does the seemingly impossible task of making Nelly Furtado seem almost likeable, reducing her voice to a delightfully sassy squawk, robotically sexing up a corny (but extremely fun) lyric. The steam-and-piston beat stomps your head in, the massive synth riff swoops your body to and fro involuntarily. It’s what the Human League may have sounded like if they were early Prince protégés. The swooshing synth sound makes a re-appearance on Justin Timberlake’s “My Love,” but Timbaland slows things down a few notches, replacing “Maneater’s” in-your-face bump and grind with a more sublte, skittery beat and Justin’s melt-in-your spleen falsetto. When I hear this song, I’m right there with him, walking down the beach hand-in-hand, throwing our clothes in the sand, and who isn’t? Apparently, there's a rapper caller T.I. on here somewhere, but he is instantly forgettable next to the expansive glory of Justin's lovelorn longing, and Timbaland's comforting-older-brother production job. Timbaland keeps the music relatively simple here, choosing to let the many layers of vocals do the effective part of the work.

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