As if we haven't had enough of them already, along comes Chromeo's Business Casual, another album made to sound as if it came out 25 years ago rather than just the other week. Well, I guess I haven't had enough, because I'm actually rather enjoying this latest exercise in retro exactitude from the Canadian duo.
"You're a hot mess" says some British lady at the beginning of the opening track "Hot Mess." Like most of the songs here it it awash with very synthy sound synthesizers, drum programming, and production flourishes, as well as robotic background vocals. "I'm Not Contagious" pulses with clubby beats, ominous synth chords, and Daft Punk-like vocal distortion.
Some of these songs evoke recognizable '80s hits. The bouncy tempo and synth rhythms of "Night by Night" recall Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," while it's guitar lick is a straight lift. The minor keyed synths and upbeat rhythm of "Don't Turn the Lights On," the album's single, evokes Michael Jackson's "Thriller." "The Right Type" reminds me of a mellower version of Jackson's "Can You Feel It."
"You Make It Rough" stands out from the pack for its unusual length. While most of these songs clock in under 4 minutes, this goes on an extended instrumental, with shimmering keyboard layers, drums, and other sounds co-mingling with some vocal ad libs. It sounds like a closing track, so sticking it in the middle is an interesting idea, as if the rest that follow is bonus.
Beyonce's sister Solange Knowles shows up as guest vocalist on "When the Night Falls," another shiny synth pop gem with a good dose of funky guitar licks. The song wracks my brain to identify it's actual '80s kin, but I can't think of a song it directly copies. It just gets the mood so right. "Don't Walk Away" sounds older, a little disco even, having incorporated some (likely synthesized) strings into the mix.
Being as they are from Montreal, we get a French track, "J’ai Claqué la Porte," which means "I Slammed the Door." It's one of the album's quieter moments, scored with acoustic strings and guitar, and over in less than 3 minutes. "Grow Up" has a trimmer sound with less synth chords, a really funky keyboard refrain, and drum programming with finger snaps.
The unwavering focus on mid-'80s funky dance pop is a lot of fun. This album reminds me a bit of Scissor Sisters' Night Work, although with a narrower sound (and certainly less racy lyrics).
Best: Don't Turn the Lights On, When the Night Falls, Night by Night, I'm Not Contagious, Don't Walk Away