When Chromeo released their Vice debut, She's in Control, in 2004, the electrofunk duo from Montreal mainly stayed a cult favorite, semifamous for their single "Needy Girl" and mostly unknown otherwise. But with their just-released sophomore album, Fancy Footwork (Vice), and their tour with Jock Jams favorites Flosstradamus, it seems their '80s popinfluenced, synth-heavy dance beats may have finally found their temporal groove. After all, if T-shirts masquerading as dresses and leggings masquerading as pants can come back, why can't foot-tapping, bleep-blooping, stay-in-your-head-all-day music? (Especially since, unlike those other retro trends, Chromeo's music actually works.)
But don't think that Chromeo is just a throwback joke band, satirizing male-male '80s pop they call themselves "the thugged-out Hall and Oates" the way the Darkness satirizes glam rock. Sure, the Montreal-born longtime friends, P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel, who daylights as an accountant) and Dave-1 (Dave Macklovitch, who's also earning his doctorate in French lit at Columbia University), have a sense of humor about their music; one look at the Fancy Footwork cover, on which synthesizers have sexy mannequin legs, tells you that to say nothing of their claim that they're the first successful Arab-Jewish collaboration in history.
But the music is no joke. Taking a step away from their past as hip-hop producers, the team decided to pay homage to the musicians who helped shape them, from Phil Collins to Robert Palmer.
"I grew up on MTV," Macklovitch writes in an e-mail interview. "I used to watch Billy Ocean and Huey Lewis videos and I wanted to be those guys. I got my first erection watching David Lee Roth's 'California Girls' video."
It's what made their first full-length so much fun: just like the records of those bands in the '80s, it's totally earnest about its danceability, its focus on relationships, and its love of computerized sounds. But rather than regurgitate the same formula, Gemayel and Macklovitch took enough time with their second disc to do something a bit different. Fancy Footwork is a more sophisticated collection of songs, both musically and thematically. "Momma's Boy" is a funny, self-aware ode to the Oedipus complex; "Opening Up," a fresh, unusual take on the rebound relationship which, by the way, references "Needy Girl." And if there's any question that these are dance anthems written from a mature perspective, there's "Bonafied Lovin'," a song about what an older man can offer a woman that her younger boyfriend can't, from the perspective of someone who actually knows ("Never mind an SMS/ What you need is a sweet caress").
Complaints about Chromeo come mostly from the electronic music community, which argues that their simple beats and Prince-inspired melodies don't add much to the techno canon. But Chromeo shouldn't be compared to the Chemical Brothers. This is dance-party, road-trip, living-room-Jazzercise, and MySpace theme song music: fun taken seriously.*
With Flosstradamus, Codebreaker, and DJs Jefrodisiac and Richie Panic
Mon/23, 9 p.m.; free with RSVP at going.com/chromeo
444 Jessie, SF
For the rest of the interview with Chromeo's Dave-1, go to www.sfbg.com/blogs/music.