She’s In Control


So I’m wondering: What is it that makes the difference between sincere pastiche Polaroid takers and true dancefloor art? Case in point, why do I have a lot of time for oh, say, Dot Allison, yet Chromeo doesn’t wholly appeal to me?

I’m a fan of this kind of music; it’s retro in a genre with which I’m unabashedly infatuated. Chromeo don’t even pretend they aspire to anything other than being a band that — as the PR release would have it — creates “a soundtrack for the perfect Saturday night out…in 1986.”

So their ambitions are in the right place as far as I’m concerned. But almost 20 years after the chart peak of that genre, I’m looking for more than echoes of my favorite records. Just under half of these tracks don’t have it.

Of those that do, “Woman Friend” has a funky bass line and mildly addictive hook; the title cut has some good synthesized drumming, and “Mercury Tears” makes the best use of the zapped vocal sound of which Chromeo are much too overly fond. But “You’re So Gangsta” is far and away the best of the lot, with pronouncedly artificial vocals making more of its minimalist lyric — exactly one line long — than most of the others, that talk a lot louder and say much less.

I think I’ve figured out the answer to the question I posed a few seconds ago, and of course I knew it all along: Talented songwriting makes all the difference. Chromeo is absolutely fun and catchy as all get-out, but they are not the new New Edition, whose “Cool It Now” they cite as a holy grail of pop. I’m on board with that, but, in the meantime, maybe somebody ought to tell them that New Edition had other people to write their songs for them.


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