Release Date: Sep 14, 2010
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Electronic
Of all the current ’80s revivalist acts, Chromeo is probably the most unapologetic, which in many ways makes it the most loveable. 2007’s breakthrough Fancy Footwork served as the hip music-loving world’s official introduction to the tongue-in-cheek-electro funk-duo composed of one part Arab (P-Thugg) and one part Jew (Dave 1). Chromeo’s latest, Business Casual, finds the synth-wizards fully immersed in their musical time machine and the results are better than one would expect given a gimmick which should have worn thin after album one.
A major-label deal hasn’t led to any substantial changes in this duo’s retro-electro sound. On Business Casual they remain adept students of the Hall & Oates school of hooks, which they surround with gleaming synth grooves and robotic talkbox solos that recall ’80s funk masters like Zapp & Roger. Are they kidding or paying serious homage? Singer Dave 1’s wry pickup lines suggest the former, but it’s impossible to say for sure.
Boy, this is an album that would be sooooo easy to hate. Chromeo is, after all, fundamentally a joke band, with a fat Arab dude and a skinny, nerdy Jew winking and nodding their way through shiny 80s synth-pop/funk, à la a slightly hopped-up Hall & Oates. The band’s lyrics are simpleminded and borderline misogynistic, with lead singer Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) running a long line of bullshit about how difficult the ladies are and how much they really want him, if only they’d admit it.
It seems like the prevailing ethos of Chromeo’s third album, Business Casual, can be gleaned from the ridiculous guitar solo at the heart of “Night by Night.” A cheesy, exuberant tangent, derailing the song and flying in the face of good taste, it’s also just brashly dumb enough. Recalling Prince’s genius for straight-faced, unblinking absurdity, the album represents a more polished delivery of the group’s unusual style, carefully refurbishing and buffing old sounds as if they were classic cars. Drenched in a kind of recycled atmosphere that’s not as much ironic as wistful, Business Casual grabs these kinds of recherché elements, be they untrammeled sax solos or well-timed triangle strikes, with both hands.
You can justifiably call them unserious, kitschy, and too reverent of their mutual inspirations, but one thing is clear in regards to the combined efforts of Messieurs Dave 1 and P-Thugg: irony is not the driving force in Chromeo’s music. I admit, I was initially wary of the group’s artistic intentions when its second album, Fancy Footwork (2007), became a college radio sensation out of fears that the Canadian retro-electro-funk duo was appropriating a genre of music I hold dear in my soul (uptempo ‘80s R&B) in an arch, ironic hipster manner instead of out of genuine affection. Ah, but that’s all in the past, as Dave 1 and P-Thugg have repeatedly asserted their sincere adoration of their source material in interviews, while infectious tunes like “Bonafied Lovin’” and “Needy Girl” have proven after repeated listens to be slamming jams in their own right.
Business Casual, Chromeo's third full-length, cements them as true scholars of squelchy chart pop. It's as if they spent three years inhaling the entire repertoire of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis before putting that knowledge to action. The record is their first on Atlantic, and they've put that major label money to good use: This sounds expensive and studio-finessed, a facet no doubt aided by Cassius member Philipe Zdar's mixing skills.
Doing it up old-school, again Chromeo’s third studio album plays by the numbers: three-minute groove-outs with the usual mix of keys, electric guitar, synths and that ubiquitous talk box. But even within this formula, the Montreal duo of P-Thugg and Dave 1 write hypnotic, theatrical disco beats reminiscent of Miami’s late-’70s/early-’80s blow scene. It’s enough to drag even the biggest stick-in-the-mud out to the dance floor: Opener “Hot Mess” starts off in the familiar territory of Chromeo’s 2004 semi-hit “Needy Girl,” followed by “I’m Not Contagious” with its “Thriller”-esque bassline.
Early-‘00s dance-punkers like the Rapture get credit for opening up all the indie kids to dance music, but for my money, it was Chromeo, via their 2007 album, Fancy Footwork, that did more to loosening swarms of tight-jeaned hips. Chromeo were the soundtrack for every cool party from 2007 to 2008, and they finally made it all right to love Hall and Oates again. But that kind of breakthrough comes with a price: Their sound was tired less than a year after it exploded.
If it didn’t capture the fun of ‘80s pop, it just wouldn’t be Chromeo. And for their third album, Pee Thug and Dave One are as campy and faithful to their roots as humanly (and robotically) possible. Coming off shows with Daryl Hall, after a guest spot on the blue-eyed soul singer’s Web show Live from Daryl’s House, the duo has tapped deeper into the intricacies of AM pop.
Three years on from their critically acclaimed Fancy Footwork, Dave-1 and P-Thugg have returned with Business Casual. Album three in Chromeo’s discography, it sees a return to the Eighties electro funk upon which they made their names, albeit stripped down slightly. As ever, the central theme of the album is the opposite sex. However where previous hit singles ‘Bonafied Lovin’, ‘Fancy Footwork’ and ‘Call Me Up’ displayed their Quebecois panache, wooing younger women and wowing them with their dance moves before taking them home and doing the dirty, _Business Casual+ is altogether more vulnerable and needy.
Three years after Chromeo released their breakthrough album, Fancy Footwork, the Montreal synth pop duo have blown up and scored a major-label deal south of the border for their third effort, Business Casual. Musically, however, not much is new. Dave-1 and P-Thugg once again capture that 80s radio pop sound with academic precision, waxing lyrical on male vulnerability over increasingly polished production values.
Despite starting promisingly, the duo’s latest finds their funky shtick wearing thin. Adam Kennedy 2010 Until now, cross-denominational Canadian combo Chromeo – aka David ‘Dave 1’ Macklovitch and Patrick ‘P-Thugg’ Gemayel – have skated perilously fine lines with no little success, soundtracking haircare ads en route. Their classic funk-pop set to 1980s-indebted electro rarely strayed into all-out over-sexed Flight of the Conchords-level musical satire.