Sunday, 7 December 2008

Hipster Douchebag Music Recommendation Of The Week: "Momma's Boy" by Chromeo

As one of the tail-end of the iPod generation, albums aren't my strong suit, and most of my recommendations are from music that came out a year or two ago, so I'll stick with these recommendations rather than subjecting you to another series of arbitrary lists. So on with my arbitrary song!

Chromeo is yet another band we first heard on Conan's show -- then investigated and found two albums' worth of funny, spacey, slightly retro-sounding tracks. Electrofunk is not exactly my specialty -- I'm not even sure "electrofunk" is an entirely real category of music, much like "shoegaze" and "slowcore" (don't even get me started on how much I hate descriptions of music as "[blah]core". Can we not stop this madness? Aren't we better than this as a people?) -- but these guys are too charming to resist.

The gem off their second album, Fancy Footwork, is the one they played on Conan's show -- a funny, weirdly sweet song about incestuous desires. It's got a cool video, too, which thankfully appears to be incest-free:

The lighthearted hooks and equally funny lyrics make the song instantly catchy -- I especially like the little riff that sounds like the theme song to an 80s sitcom that never existed but should have. It's an endearingly lo-fi effort -- like two kids who are messing around in their parents' basement with a Casio keyboard.

In fact, the band's two members, Dave 1 and P-Thugg (real names David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel) have been friends since they were kids, and describe themselves as "the only successful Arab/Jewish collaboration since the beginning of time." Delightfully, Dave 1 is getting his PhD in French literature from Columbia so he can teach, and P-Thugg is a trained accountant. Knowing this makes their performance, complete with bling and disembodied drum-beating women's legs (they look awfully fra-gile-ay) of the title track off Fancy Footwork on Jimmy Kimmel's show all the more entertaining:

But the best part about Chromeo is that they're willing to take chances on reinterpreting their songs. When they performed on Conan's show, they ditched the lo-fi approach and, somewhat bizarrely, brought in a string section. Have I mentioned lately that I love string sections? The result is beautiful, touching, funny, and kind of creepy. (Watch out for Dave singing "We're just Obama's boys" and grinning hugely as the audience cheers.)

Shameful Admission of the Week:

"Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" by Sasha Fierce Beyonce

It's not quite as good as "Crazy In Love," which may end up being the highlight of Beyonce's career, but this single is infectiously catchy, as evidenced by its ubiquity. Though Admiral Neck is an unrepentant music snob (FACT!), he's the one who showed me this video awhile ago -- and I'm sure it was in no way influenced by the fact that Beyonce is on his List (or used to be, until he saw her on Punk'd and decided she was a heartless automaton).

It's an entrancing, hypnotic video, and not just because Beyonce is thrusting her groin at the camera at regular intervals. It's just three women dancing in black and white, but it's beautifully choreographed, with the kind of energetic thigh-shaking that is Beyonce's specialty and a stripped-down set that puts the focus squarely on our singer, who is a magnetic presence to begin with (though that may have something to do with her bionical arm) and becomes impossible to take your eyes off here. My favorite part of the video is when they run up a ramp at the side of the room for a few seconds -- it's not a big effect or anything, but it gives the video a sense of giddiness and hyperreality.

It turns out that Beyonce rejiggered this concept from somebody who dubbed the Unk song "Walk It Out" over a Bob Fosse dance routine of Gwen Verdon and two other women dancing to "Mexican Breakfast." The slightly creepy original is here, and the terrifying mash-up/remix/unholy hybrid is here. Some YouTube commenters are apparently horrified by Beyonce "stealing" the idea. Hold the phone! An R&B artist using sampling for her song??? Where are my pearls, I must clutch them! Anyway, it's a great idea and Beyonce's updating of it works brilliantly -- not least because it helps scrub the image of Gwen Verdon high-kicking in bell-bottomed sailor pants out of my horrified brain.

The song itself is a rump-shaking, hand-clapping barn-stormer, and as the thumping bass digs in and the mechanical whirring mimics the melody, it's impossible not to want to get up and swing your cyborg arms along with it. The synthesizer that rises up during the chorus gives the song an almost epic, slightly menacing feel, which I think is appropriate for a song in which spurning your boyfriend's love apparently turns you into a man-eating dance robot. It's another feminism-lite track from Beyonce, an ode to female empowerment via, um, withholding sex until your boyfriend agrees to marry you. Hm. Well, hey, it's got style and sass and ladies in skimpy outfits parading around with attitude, and that pretty much constitutes most feminism these days. Where are my bras, I must burn them!

Of course I've gotten in on this phenomenon just a bit late; I suppose it's a testament to the power of the video that it's imprinted itself on the national consciousness this way. We've already had the guy who does the choreography in his bedroom (he's great, but I have to admit that his abs creep me out a little. There's so many of them!), the Gwen Verdon version, and, of course, the SNL parody with Justin Timberlake, which was hilarious but did not feature nearly enough dancing from Paul Rudd. And then there's the rest of them. Have a good time having the next nine hours of your life sucked away. Sasha Fierce will own you too!


Masticator said...

I appreciate that I and the other target of your dig are very very old people, born before the modern era started (apparently 1980), but I think claiming to belong to "the tail-end of the iPod generation" is pushing it. Wouldn't that make you about eight months old?

Anyway, you are right about one thing: Beyonce will never top "Crazy In Love".

Canyon said...

Well you are old, beardy; there's no point taking it out on poor old iPods just because they confuse you. And "iPod generation" depends on your perspective (though I admit using the term "iPod generation" automatically makes your perspective that of a wanky magazine writer). Basically it covers anyone who's more used to listening to shuffled songs rather than entire albums -- perhaps I am more of the "CD generation" because I didn't grow up with mp3 players, but that's not really zeitgeisty, is it?

"Crazy in Love" PWNs, to use the parlance of my achingly young and desirable cohorts.

sjwoo said...

That episode of SNL with Paul Rudd -- did you see the whole thing? There were lots of great moments, like Timberlake's hyper-compressed bit on Weekend Update:

It also had two digital shorts, one which is available online ("Everybody's a Critic") while the other, which I actually found funnier, is not.

"Single Ladies" is just one hell of a catchy song. It just won't leave my head.

Masticator said...

It wasn't the "iPod generation" I was objecting to so much as the "tail-end" part. Surely you are in the vanguard if anything.

Also, that Beyonce song is annoying.

Admiral Neck said...

I totally agree. It is annoyingly brilliant, and numerous replays on a variety of mp3 players has yet to squelch its pop perfection.