Remember the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop? A really skinny Eddie Murphy wreaking havoc in Los Angeles, backgrounded by relentless synth drum and keyboard lines? One of my favourite scenes is where Eddie, taking in the sights, walks past two guys clad from head to toe in multi-coloured leather jumpsuits, and can’t help but bend over laughing in the middle of the street.
Well if you remember this fondly, and all other things entrenched in the sleek, dazzling veneer of the 1980s, then you’ll love Business Casual, the third album to be released by Montreal plastic funk-duo Chromeo on the 14th of September. Get ready for a synth attack; smooth back-up vocals, repeated drum loops, melodies and sustained keyboard chords.
Why is that people still love this retrospective stuff so much? It really does sound like the long lost soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop or another similarly styled 80s movie, and I find it kind of funny that no-one is willing to forget the decade that fashion supposedly forgot. Ever since their hit “Needy-Girl” Chromeo have become a festival and club favourite, a revivalist act that truly references the past like there’s no tomorrow. While electro might come and go, Chromeo are proving they’ll be a bastion of 80s style disco-funk till the very end. Their latest effort Business Casual is testament to this loyalty and proves the band know exactly what they like, and know how to do it well. After all it’s proven to be quite a successful formula for them.
“Hot Mess” kicks the album off in style, with a sassy British female monologue accompanied by a high-pitched vocal line and arrangement typical of Chromeo. This song could very well be the sequel to “Needy Girl”, and is undoubtedly one of the best on the album. Listen out for an awesome synth solo and infectious chorus. I love it when he goes “what?!”. “I’m Not Contagious” jumps into a similarly paced and sounding verse backline, with a clever interplay of lead vocals and answering back-ups. “Night by Night” and “Don’t Turn The Lights On” are previously released singles from the album, and are more examples of Chromeo at their best, fusing elements of the 80s – repeated synth beats and melodies – with their trademark talk-box vocals from Pee-Thugg and complex arrangements of midi sounds. “You Make It Rough” is by far and away the longest song on the album; at nearly seven and a half minutes it will most likely become a festival song the band play when they want to get everyone into a groove with extended drum and vocal solos. On the album itself it doesn’t get as experimental as I would have hoped – maybe a bass-chord change or some heavier synths would have been good – but this will hopefully emerge from live performances.
For “When the Night Falls”, Chromeo enlist help from Solange Knowles (baby sister to queen of the universe Beyoncé), and the result is something akin to “Borderline” by Madonna. “Don’t Walk Away” sounds like a reworded Chromeo song we’ve heard before, and unfortunately doesn’t add much to the album. The problem is that Dave 1’s vocals, while crucial to the overall sound of Chromeo, don’t have much variance in tone…all that changes from song to song is the melody, but they’re essentially sung in the same way and rely instead on the music to carry them.
“Grow Up” is the best song towards the end of the album, and you could swear that the backline synth was ripped directly from Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”. When you listen to 80s classics like this can see where a lot of Chromeo’s influence comes from. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were secretly the grandsons of Quincy Jones, the production genius behind Jackson who really pioneered so much of that sound that was an intrinsic part of the 80s. You might think at times it’s unimaginative for a band to still carry this 80s baton, but no outfit really does it to the extent, and with the same amount of flair, as Chromeo do. Dave 1’s vocals are cheeky, and when he sings, it’s as though he’s telling us about something he shouldn’t.
With Business Casual, Chromeo don’t exactly throw any spanners in the works, which they perhaps should have. I think considering this is their third album they could have branched out a little more and experimented with the sound and genre in a more daring way. Experiments aside, the duo pull-off a pretty accessible and enjoyable album and at times they show it’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek, which is good. It just depends on whether your Eddie Murphy from Beverly Hills Cop, bent over laughing at the guys dressed in leather, or you’re Eddie Murphy from Delirious; dressed in red leather from head to toe and loving it.
Highlights :: “Hot Mess” and “Don’t Turn The Lights On”