Dig This Fluffy, Funky Groove
When I was fourteen, my ten-year-old sister thought I was the coolest thing on wheels. She made a point of liking whatever I liked; we were hip together.
When I decided, in defiance of overwhelming popular opinon, that Bruce Springsteen was a square, Katie was right there with me, sticking her finger down her throat in an exaggerated show of distaste whenever my mom played her "Born in the USA" record.
Under my guidance she spurned the safe, the predictable, the above-board.
We were into grunge.
We memorized the lyrics to "Purple Rain" and would spontaneously break into groaning, lascivious song as we trailed my mother down the supermarket aisles: "Thiiyiss iswhatitsoundslike...when duuvs cry..." We were an embarrasment.
But one day I woke up and realized I liked that song by the Jets called "Rocket to You." I was ashamed; it was a corny, schlocky and dumb song about a guy who doesn't know how to fix appliances. It was all over the top-40 stations. It had a ridiculous rap segment ("Don't call me when your toaster won't pop up, don't call me just to cut your lawn") and for some reason I thought it was funky as hell. My taste had plummeted through the floor.
It took me awhile to tell my sister about it. She took the news hard--her idol was tarnished. She refused to believe I really liked it, preferring instead to pretend it was all a sick joke on my part. Where was my taste for authenticity? For grunge?
"You are nothumming that song because you like it!" she would cry in disbelief. "You're just doing it to be stupid and annoying!"
But she was wrong. I loved it. There was something immensely appealing about its plastic stupidity.
Now I love "Abbaesque," the new corny, scholocky, blissfully dumb EP by Erasure, and I am mortified. When my sister finds out, she will laugh at me. "Erasure sucks," she'll tell me, and she'll be right. Their sound is flat, canned and corporate. They're just a happy Depeche Mode, and what did the members of DM ever really have going for them except stylish gloom? I thought I'd long outgrown Erasure's typical, cloying, techno sound. And "ABBA-esque" is a skimpy, derivative album consisting of four covers of ABBA songs.
But this lack of originality is the best think about it. Someone once said that composing is nothing more than remembering a tune nobody else has ever thought of. If that's true, Erasure has done a brilliant service to the world by remembering these sublimely silly songs. (I don't know anything about ABBA; they were before my time--the name occupies as murky space in my cultural memory, associated through Scandinavian-ness with the Wassa Bread my anorexic babysitter used to eat.)
But it doesn't really matter that I can't remember ABBA's music on my own: Erasure is there to help. Listen to "ABBA-esque" once, and you'll know the tunes backwards and forwards. These songs are so infectious you'll feel like they've been floating around in our collective unconscious, just waiting for someone like Erasure's Andy Bell to give them voice. They sound like nursery songs, and they have the same simplistic, joyous appeal.
The words are stupid--it's obvious they were written by people with only the slightest clue about English (example: "It was like shooting a sitting duck/a little talk and a smile and baby I was stuck"). But forget them-Bell does. The high point of the album comes on "Take A Chance on Me," where he leaves the lyrics behind and babbles a blissful "ba ba ba ba." And the concept is hilarious: Erasure is just a latter-day incarnation of ABBA, after all--they're both gooey, disco-ey, selfparodying pop groups. Thus this album is self-parody to the second degree at least. It's a tongue-in-cheek overdose of corn, and it's cool.
You've never heard techno pop so self-indulgent. The electronic gadgets beep and boom in delicious excess--"S.O.S." sounds like R2D2 having an orgasm. The album is so incredibly boppy and catchy it's downright scary; these melodies will stick in your head obsessively, providing a manic soundtrack to your thoughts for weeks to come.
Obviously, my sister no longer sees me as the arbiter of good taste, and with reason; I'm seduced by cheese in all its incarnations.
But I believe this is fine cheese--it lingers on the palate with a crazy, tangy aftertaste. Just keep listening, sis, I promise you'll get it: play one side, then the other (they're identical), then turn it over again. Your brain will numb; soon you'll leave your old taste standards far behind and learn to dig this fluffy groove.
An Elektra EP