Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chromeo - Fancy Footwork (Original TC Review)

Vice Records: 2007

(2013 Update:
Chromeo may have been sincere in their music, but to many of their fans at the time, they were treated as little more than a novelty act. Straight-up hipster fests at most of their shows and, as with all things hipster "enjoyed", Chromeo became passe as that scene turned their ironic tastes elsewhere in short order (or just grew the fuck up). That, or Chromeo signing to a major label for their third album,
Business Casual, made them no longer cool - retro electro-funk pop's only cool if it's some indie act playing it, I guess.

Of course, if you genuinely like this sound,
Fancy Footwork hasn't dated in the slightest. It was intentionally dated to begin with, after all.)


IN BRIEF: “If it ain’t broke...”, etc.

When Chromeo first made their presence felt on Tiga’s label Turbo Recordings, they were surrounded by a huge roster of up-and-coming names, each pushing and shoving for attention in a quickly crowded electro-renaissance. In spite of this, Dave 1 and Pee Thug still stood out from the pack thanks to their ultra-stripped electro funk sound and playfully charming come-ons. They grabbed your attention because, unlike many of their brethren whom fallen by the wayside, you honestly couldn’t tell if their ‘80s indulgence was ironic or sincere. Oh, and they had some damn fine catchy hooks too.

Half a decade on, the landscape of dance music has certainly changed; the era of electroclash seems but a distant memory, even if trace elements of kitsch can still be found on occasion. Chromeo were a perfect fit for the retro-revival then, but now that tastes and trends have moved on to encompass indie-rock overtones and navel-gazing minimalism, has the duo found it necessary to change with the times as well? With their sophomore effort, the answer is a resounding “Gosh no!”

Fancy Footwork finds them picking up right where they left off on She’s In Control. Talk boxes. Roland 808s. Analogue synths. And songs of women. Lots of women. Electro funk vibes and synth-pop melodies dominate once more, and Chromeo find little reason to move out of their comfortable niche. Because of this, some might figure the duo as nothing but a one-trick pony. However, this strikes me more as a definitive statement of how they wish their act to be perceived. You might have been able to knock them for trend-jumping in the beginning but not here. This sound is more unique now than it was half a decade ago.

And you can forget the ‘irony’ suppositions as well. Yes, it was easier to pin it on them before, but that was due to the overwhelming number of acts surrounding them that were being ironic; Chromeo were merely caught in their wave. Now, the duo stands independent from taste-makers, quite happy to no longer be trapped within trends. As such, they’re bolder in presenting themselves, secure in the knowledge they have the chops to deliver their sound sincerely and without constant comparisons to current names (they’ll never be rid of the ones from the ‘80s though).

But don’t for a second take this as though they’ve become serious musicians. Chromeo’s songs are still filled with playful witticisms and willful pop. It’s just much easier to buy into the fun of it without feeling like a trendwhore. If their Intro doesn’t win you over with its vintage synths and “Chro-mee-oh, ooh-oh ” chant, then you may as well write the rest of Fancy Footwork off, as it’s clear you won’t be able to buy into their sound.

And while the music itself is mostly straight-forward and entertaining, it’s the lyrics that win you over. Of course, their pick-up lines like “You got a boy like him, a man like me, and you know that’s just not the same” and “..call me when you’re home alone; call me when you’re freaky, call me when you’re nasty, call me when you want to mmh” are amusing but Dave 1's simple tales of relationships come in various guises. The hilariously Freudian Momma’s Boy for instance, or Pee Thug’s so-simple-it’s-sound advice on how to deal with a testy relationship (“take her to the movies and you’re gonna work it all out” - even Dave 1 seems stunned by it). Elsewhere, smoother moments such as 100% and Outta Sight show a more thoughtful side to their writing. Probably the only instance where the duo’s wit comes into question is on Tenderoni, where the title is often repeated like a woeful intent to create hip slang.

All this being said, there isn’t anything on here that could be deemed a standout hit. Titular track Fancy Footwork, with its bumping rhythms and simple call for dancing on the floor, is the closest we get, with Bonafide Lovin and Waiting 4 U holding the silver and bronze. The rest, while all nicely digestible synth ‘n’ funk, remains unabashedly singular in execution - it doesn’t exactly sound canned, but nor does it sound original. It’s like they’re appetizers rather than a full-course meal. Ultimately, those inventive or lingering moments that could help lift the album above something more than a pleasing diversion are missing.

Still, if you have nary a problem with light-weight happy-fun electro, such criticisms probably won’t be of much concern. Chromeo’s act is in fine form, and unless the combination of poppy hooks and hot-neon imagery leaves a lingering bitterness in your ears, you’ll come from Fancy Footwork with a smile on your face.


ACE TRACKS:
Fancy Footwork

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved.


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