Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Playboy Music

The remix is half consumer fraud, half connoisseurship run amuck. Of course, a good club d.j. can jolt the assembled asses with the right dub, but most of the extra stuff the labels put on 12-inchers functions as filler for anyone except a beat baby. So I was surprised to discover three recent remix compilations that have their uses. Madonna's You Can Dance (Sire) leaves her biggest radio hits untouched for some future compilation; yet, not counting the dub-mad "Into the Groove," a dance track to begin with, these seconds sound more at home in their specially segued all-new extensions than buried away on her albums.

Side B of Billy Idol's Vital Idol (Chrysalis) is just macho disco, but side A plays up the cartoonishness of his sneering persona with special effects his videos should only equal. And moving to the sublime, we have New Order's Substance (Qwest). When the band was still extricating itself from the cerebral gloom of Joy Division, New Order liked disco because it was trancelike--that is, boring. But just to keep themselves awake, the band members devised their own system of kinetic percussion and topped things off with hypnotic chants, especially on the singles that are Substance's substance. A revelation.

Long ago and far away, Earth, Wind & Fire taught black pop fans the wisdom and beauty of the self-contained band. Although a tour featuring the two other original members is planned, the band on the new Touch the World (Columbia) is composed of two solo artists--leader Maurice White and his sometime compadre Philip Bailey--joining their voices in song with a bunch of L.A. studio and publishing hacks. Yet White still gets good music out of his trademark. No matter who created them, "System of Survival" and "Money Tight" make him sound more in touch with the world than all his solo artistry.

Playboy, Mar. 1988


Feb. 1988 Apr. 1988