CHROMEO – DJ-Kicks (ALBUM REVIEW)

chromeo - DJ Kicks
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I make no secret of my enduring fixation with 80s music. I find my palate constantly returning to that most innovative of decades for inspiration now more than ever, when the current musical landscape sometimes appears to be in an arid state. It is therefore a pleasure to have found kindred spirits in Chromeo, the new-school dons of synthesised soul. Accomplished musicians David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel aka Dave-1 and P-Thugg are a Canadian based Israeli-Palestinian production/DJ combo whose creative raison d’être is paying homage to the funky electronica with which they grew up and continues to enchant them.

When they first emerged a few years ago Chromeo were perceived unfairly by some as a novelty act; riding the nostalgic wave solely for the sake of gimmick. Nonetheless as time has passed and they refuse to shift– and to be fair were on the 1980s tip long before the likes of Lady Gaga and Elly from La Roux decided to cynically jump that bandwagon– it is clear Chromeo aren’t just a couple of chancers with an uncannily accurate sensor for the next big trip down memory lane. They really are all about the tunes and their passion is sincere and unabashed. As Dave-1 pointed out, ‘If it’s a joke, you don’t keep it going for that many years’ – too right.

‘DJ Kicks’ –their third album and first compilation – is a gratitude-laden nod to some of the best electro-funk, soul and pop records of the Anglo/Francophone world from the past 30-odd years. The result is a stunning one-hour mix of overlooked classics and obscure gems. You get the impression, as Dave-1 and P-Thugg expertly blend each track with the next, that you’d get no less from them at one of their live sets. If so then there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Dave-1 and P-Thugg
Dave-1 and P-Thugg

There are one or two selections that might be familiar to some –Donna Allen’s ‘Serious’ for instance, which was sampled by Strike in 1994 on ‘You Sure Do’ (as usual the original is the best). ‘DJ Kicks’ however is more of an education in -and a timely reminder of -why the era of the synth was such a special time for music no matter how much those sardonic post-modernist killjoys protest otherwise. On hearing the Rick James-produced ‘Seduction’ by Val Young, I wondered why this fabulous track is not a staple of every blast-from-the-past DJ Set. And for all those, like yours truly, who thought Daft-Punk notwithstanding dance music from the French-speaking world is non-descript and devoid of melodic structure, will have their preconceptions shot down. The gorgeous post-disco ballad ‘Dans Tes Yeux’ by Diane Tell alone silenced my ignorance. The much more recent ‘Sequencer’ by Lifelike could easily be mistaken for something composed by Messrs Homem-Christo and Bangalter circa the ‘Discovery’ album. Chromeo also manage to squeeze on their own lush cover of The Eagles ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’ which floors me no matter how many times I listen to it.

One of my absolute favourite moments on this conveyor belt of unmitigated pleasure is Shazam’s ‘Luckier’. I was shocked to discover this slice of joy was only recorded this year; it sounds like every great 80s R&B tune you have heard rolled into one. Jam and Lewis would be very proud. ‘DJ Kicks’, you see, is not just a salute to that bygone era; it’s also a celebration of Chromeo’s contemporaries who too are genuine electro-lovers, not old enough to have been a part of the original movement yet still very much in awe of the time.

As we come to the end of a year when every Thomas, Richard and Harriet has tried their hand at reviving the synthesiser-sound to varied, even sub-standard effect, ‘DJ-Kicks’ is a welcome lesson in how it’s really done. Quite simply, a delight.


Chromeo jamming with Daryl Hall from Hall & Oates.

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Review by Tolita

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