They’ve got the look, I’ll give them that. Polyamorous Affair is a duo, immediately calling to mind all of the working dynamics of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin or Marc Almond and Dave Ball, which immediately makes things more interesting than your typical pop quartet. The boy — Eddie Chacon — emerges from a shadowy hit-making past looking like a young David Crosby circa Monterey Pop, all gaucho cool. The girl — chanteuse Sissy Saint-Marie — not only has a killer last name but looks like a Nico doll encased in arctic ice and diamonds. As Polyamorous Affair, they make a late-night, aloof but after-party friendly music that brings to mind Glass Candy if they were influenced by ’90s house music and Erasure instead of Italo Disco — or Crystal Castles if they were more interested in exotic drinks and clever clothes instead of, ummm, crack and knife fights? The primitive pulse and thrum of the drum machine heart and Saint-Marie’s distant, studied coo are promising building blocks/foundations, but Polyamorous Affair’s pure-pop ambitions dilute the songs somewhat. Where some sleaze and backroom murk would serve them better, they instead head more towards the sunnier climes of Eurodisco and Yaz’s plastic soul.
The songs on Bolshevik Disco are mantric in their simplicity, generally a couple of vocal hook/slogans layered over click-clack 808 beats and surging, dance floor synth stabs. I love the air of posed ennui and simultaneous sophistication, but the awkward outer-space-techno-diva cover of Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” almost pulls down the whole velvet curtain a la Bruno-in-a-velcro-suit for me. Much better is the delicate, shimmering Kraftwerkisms and icy glares of “Face Control.” Where the album succeeds is when it heads to more alien outer realms.
“White Hot Magic” pairs frostbitten synth knives to a wall of retro pulses straight out of the New Order songbook (maybe even sneaking a few stray chords on Bernard Sumner’s guitar) with four-to-the-floor beats and Saint-Marie repeating the title over and over again as a robot with a vocoder takes the lead vocals. “Fashion” is an update of David Bowie’s Scary Monsters nugget, complete with suitably dramatic vocals, but is too saccharine and ultimately wears thin. “Eastern” playfully nicks most of Erasure’s best tricks, down to Chacon’s falsetto yelp (a dead ringer for Andy Bell) and chirpy Vince Clark synths. Saint-Marie adjusts her false eyelashes and spits out a few lines, unmoved. Result!
Chacon is downright lascivious on “The Fader,” his vocals undulating and whispery, especially his “uh huh huhhhhhh” gurgle. Pair that with musicbox basic keyboards and tense guitar straight out of a Wire song; then the whole song builds to a robo-disco conclusion with both vocalists giving it their all and finally not afraid to sweat a little and run their makeup. Nice way to end it. The songs barely exceed the four-minute mark, which works — keep things snappy and quick. Definitely not all it could be, but a workable start.
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