Four faces of disco and one additional example to start the weekend pounding:
The Juan MacLean "Give Me Every Little Thing (Putsch 79 Disco Dub)" - I'm not the most ardent supporter of DFA's endless Matchbox-car treatment of rock and disco -- the two genres are constantly rammed into each other in different configurations, as though at the hands of some genius toddler too sophisticated to pull the legs off bugs. This is not to say that James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy are killing anything. What I find most distasteful about dance rock or disco punk or whatever you're most likely to hear on the LES right now, has little to do with DFA's experimentation. It's the effectual suggestion that in order for dance music to be cool (thus, accepted by Williamsburg wimpsters), it has to RAWK, as though the precise, obliterating, good-old 4/4 of disco isn't butch enough. I don't fault Murphy for this effect, since he seemed pretty OK about making potentially gay music when I asked him about it for his MAGNET interview. The world is big enough to contain dance music that's driven by guitars, even if hipster myopia is basically trained to only that strain right now.
DFA acts get extra points for their willingness to gay it up via remixes. I already posted the best example of this we're ever likely to hear (Lindstrom's gorgeous take on LCD Soundsystem's "Tribulations"), though Finnish duo Putsch '79 spin a worthy successor with their leaner, bitchier take on the Juan MacLean's "Give Me Every Little Thing." It's like music's answer to Queer Eye, minus the mincing and your resulting cringing. Putsch tidy up the oddly commercial, Euro-leaning, "One More Time"ing original by stripping it down to its bikini-beats underwear and live-sounding bass line that slips around it. Synths hung all over the original, and it's as though now there's only room for one in this carry-on bag of a track. What once was a mess now wails with timed flamboyance and aplomb that old-school boogie and latter-day disco offered in the early '80s when producers were so eager to show off their keyboard's sounds of now. It's as urgently retro as anything in the tents at Bryant Park, and you know how gays love a fashion show.
Evelyn "Champagne" King - Let's Get Funky Tonight (12" Version)" - Dlisted's Hot Slut of Monday, Evelyn King, gets some more love for the week's closing. Plenty of King's tracks made bigger marks than "Let's Get Funky Tonight," but few are as wonderfully idiosyncratic. "Funky" arrived in 1980, a time of crossroads for disco (though it "sucked" according to tastemaker racists and homophobes, it existed unfazed in the underground and on black radio, where it was making the transition from live to programmed). It was also a time of change for Evelyn, whose future surely looked uncertain as up to this point, she'd mostly proved herself as a disco diva (and an uber one at that -- she sounded so natural and free floating over the confines and cliches of the genre that singing disco might as well have been programmed into her DNA). "Let's Get Funky Tonight," then has almost contradictory charm -- its most endearing musical quality is its intergalactic synth, while its live four-on-the-floor beat keeps it grounded. Evelyn says nothing of consequence, but is damn convincing nonetheless. She worked hard for her shrinking paychecks and her relevance and thank god she stuck with it -- "Funky" was a bobbing bridge into her wholly electronic future that would prove to be the most essential period of her career (specifically 1981's I'm in Love album with its perfect title track and 1982's Get Loose, with the almost-as-jaw-dropping "Love Come Down"). America tried its best to wipe disco off its pop landscape, but nothing could shake Evelyn. Tony Touch featuring Total "I Wonder Why (He's the Greatest DJ) (Soul Central Remix Extended)" - A bizarre confluence of not only the past and the present but of individual disco styles occurred in 2000 with this track, essentially a fawning commercial for Touch and his The Piece Maker comp. He enlisted the butchiest girl group of the '90s, Total, to redo Sister Sledge's "He's the Greatest Dancer," a somewhat played-out choice, seeing as Will Smith had already done much to resurrect destroy it by making its sample the backbone of 1997's "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It." No matter, Total handle the task efficiently, but it was Soul Central's Italo-disco injection that pushed the song into beguiling greatness. Prominently showing off the fits-and-starts bass line and a synth melody ganked from Kano's "I'm Ready", a source track that's so Italian, it'll make you see red (and green and white), "I Wonder Why" barely had a chance of serving its ad-ish function in the mainstream (keep in mind that this was created before the single most vital bit of Italo retroism, I-F's flawless Mixed Up in the Hague DJ mix, even had a chance to catch on underground). But wow, Italo on the relatively open (-minded) airwaves urban radio? What a beautiful possibility. Janet Jackson "R&B Junkie" - See, even Janet loves Evelyn, as "R&B Junkie" speeds up and guts King's "I'm in Love" to replace it with a celebration of the old school. While Janet's lyrical affinity for sounds of the past matches the theme of this post, and while Damita Jo was so slept on that I feel it my duty as a fan to share share share it, neither of these are the main reason I'm posting it.
The truth is that after watching the fun-filled Beauty Shop last weekend, I've been amused all week just by replaying one particular part in my head. Andie MacDowell, in her ATL belle role, looks around at the mostly black employees of the shop and, in her white-girl attempt to strike up conversation, asks, "So what do y'all think of Janice Jackson?" The girls proceed to chide her for her error and imply that she's lezzie for mentioning the sun-tittied one in the first place. With good reason -- Janice Jackson!?! That's totally what I'm calling Jan from now on. The best part about this is that it was a genuine mistake on Andie's part, a dangerous side-effect of an ad-libbing whitey. I always knew she had her head up her ass, but I never knew it could be so endearing. Play this one for Andie.