Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Disco never died. It just suffered commercial reverses that returned it to hard-core dancers--the gays and dark-skinned youths who'd demanded it to begin with. Even as the funk-lite rhythms of U.K. New Pop recaptured the charts in the mid-'80s, more specialized dance musics were evolving in both America and Europe. Under the Chicago-based rubric "house" they've dominated club life since the mid-'80s without anyone but the subculture noticing.

Always too abstractly dance-specific to make a crossover dent, this music finally got a U.S. hearing early this year, when Technotronic's Pump Up the Jam turned novelty smash. Strongly reminiscent of Marshall Jefferson's House Music Anthem, the tune was produced in London by Jo Bagaert, kingpin of the influential Belgian dance scene, and features American-born half-rapper half-singer Ya Kid K. Soul connoisseurs make fun of Ya Kid K's more-than-droning, less-than-tuneful urban drawl, but I say it's punky and perfect, one highlight of Pump Up the Jam: The Album (SBK), which is dominated by variations on the hit's vocals. If you like Technotronic on the car radio, they won't get tired when you take them home. And you can dance to them.

In the wake of Expose and the Cover Girls, the New York trio Seduction sounds more familiar. But as shaped by producers David Cole and Robert Clivilles, Idalis Leon, April Harris, and Michelle Visage aren't just bubblegum clones: on Nothing Matters Without Love (A&M), their voices have body and texture, and the songwriting--underpinned by Clivilles's terse dance-classic samples--is as rich as it gets in this genre. From the Heartbeat cover and the It Takes Two rip to the independently romantic One Mistake and the tough-talking Breakdown to the sexy-campy Seduction's Theme, Seduction is poised to inspire a whole new round of "Disco Sucks" rallies. Which will be even stupider than they were the last time.

Playboy, Feb. 1990


Jan. 1990 Mar. 1990