words_juan antonio bisono. photo_tim saccenti.
A Review on: White Women
It’s hard to believe that a band as hip as Chromeo has been around for ten years and that for the same amount of time they’ve been doing the exact same thing. It seems like every couple years, the duo composed by Dave 1 and P-Thugg, churn out a couple catchy singles and the album swishes by in the midst of remixes and a couple long nights at Ibiza. Then, we forget about it.
But, every so often you’ll hear one of their songs playing and it incites a sort of revelatory nostalgia that only great bands (and Nickelback…ugh) can invoke. It’s a feeling of recognition, a staple of all iconic sound. One of their songs blares through the radio and immediately you know who’s singing it. Whether the reason is Dave 1’s smooth lackadaisical lyrical style, P-Thugg’s vocoder vocals, or the repackaged disco beneath a veneer of sell-out pop, Chromeo has survived on a major label because they’ve paved a style that can only be assumed as theirs. Their disco-funk reminds me of another important disco track that kept repeating the words “I will Survive,” because Chromeo has made a career out of doing exactly that.
Ever since their 2003 hit single “Needy Girl,” the Montreal (based in NYC) duo have been consistently providing their audience with solid hooks and beats that keep fans optimistic about what’s next, even though the future will probably be more of the same. But, that’s the best thing about Chromeo: it’s both forgettable and memorable. It’s fun without the intellectual guilt trip. It gives us bubble-gum flavored pop in a way that allows us to not feel stupid about enjoying it.
On their latest album, provocatively titled White Women, the pair goes as ironic as they’ve ever been. The title itself is a great example; there’s nothing white about Chromeo, much less Caucasian. The members are both from middle eastern families and not only is the band’s sound emanating from African American roots, but most of the secondary vocals here are done by black women. From the great “Lost on the Way Home” duet with Solange to the sprawling thick-voiced backups of Tawatha Agee of Mtume, the music here sounds at home surrounded by smoke-screens and afro’s underneath a disco ball. More so, the lyrics still hail straight from sex-it-up- R&B and remind me of R-Kelly—if R-Kelly decided to show us some of his more sensible sessions with a psychologist.
Chromeo wants it that way. They want you to have fun with it and not take it seriously. Even the music borders on self-parody. The songs are meant to be enjoyed on a larger scale than just partying. Chromeo wants to make you tap your feet at the local Abercrombie & Fitch, they want to give you an environment to laugh during happy hour, or provide fuel for pickup game to the unknowing nerd or coming of age teen. Chromeo isn’t throwing its nose up and sticking its chest out. These guys might be the coolest dudes in the room, but ask them if they give a shit about it. They keep poking fun at their human qualities because they understand that not taking themselves so seriously results in their audience doing the same with themselves.
There’s something to be said about how the best music evokes wide ranges of emotions, but this band does the opposite. They remove all the melodrama. Although Chromeo is all fast-paced disco-funk and it’s not meant to be taken as a dense musical manuever, they still manage to appeal to an underlying insecurity in most men. Chromeo talks to men like themselves or the guy that wants to get the girl and needs to pretend not to care in order to win her over. And while I know the bandmates indulge in self-deflating humor lyrically, I can bet they don’t do the same with the girls they hang with. But, through their music, Chromeo is the rare band that makes you feel better about yourself because, frankly, if these famous dudes from Brooklyn are okay with being corny, then I’m okay with it too. It’s like they sing on their single “Jealous (I Ain’t With It),” “I get jealous/ but im too cool to admit it.” It’s a bit that most guys can relate to, and to finally hear it being said out loud allows aspiring bad-asses to sigh and know that they aren’t alone. We all get jealous, and thanks to Chromeo it doesn’t have to be a negative feeling anymore.
But, this album manages to be effective not only because of the pair’s humorous bits of self-exposure. The production is both diligent and fresh, and at times beautiful, but also ridiculous. Chromeo really amps up the celebrity on this last album in order to achieve exactly the kind of production that they want and it works. Ezra Koenig sings a little fun diddy with Dave 1 in “Ezra’s Interlude,” the kind of genius that Vampire Weekend does so well evoking both aching pain and fun sentimentality. Chillwave kid-genius Chaz Bundwick, better known by his stage name, Toro y Moi, is heavily featured on the second song of the album “Come Alive,” bringing his raw and defenseless vocals to contrast with the guarded musical environment of Chromeo’s sunny disco. LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney contributes on the album and Indie House duo Oliver produced the main single “Jealous (I Ain’t With It).” The album is a full collaborative experience that when listened to doesn’t feel that way because of the aforementioned Chromeo sound. Even though so many talented people influenced the creation of this album, the two song-writers have such a heavy presence that all of the songs sound exactly like Chromeo and it serves as a testament to why the band is still relevant not only in music but also in the growing hipster cultural landscape.
The final song on the album is intentionally placed there to serve as a reminder of why Chromeo is so good at what it does. It’s a near six-minute disco-funk with jokey lyrics and music that lampoons itself. The song bridges into a fantastically silky saxophone solo that you would love to call corny except it’s too damn enjoyable. A wonderfully absurd vocoder solo follows, making you want to cringe and shake your head. But, you keep smiling. It’s unavoidable, there’s all levels of aw-shucks extravaganza mixed in with all the f*!king Chromeo keeps insinuating. It’s easy to imagine Chromeo’s music on a cartoon because the music is a caricature of itself. It taps into your inner child, while still letting you strut around in some Ray-Ban Wayfarers and a cigarette. Everything goes with Chrome. You can be happy, flawed and get laid. It’s like a sh*tty bumper sticker would say: don’t take yourself so seriously, life is far too serious already.
Check out the playlist we made of Chromeo’s new album on Distraction’s Spotify: distractionmagazine.