In 1982, for my ninth birthday, my dad gave my very first Walkman. Luckily, my first mixtape also came with it: a copy of an album by Montreal rockers Corbeau on one side, one of French-Canadian chanteuse Diane Tell on the other. I had basically forgotten about the entire ordeal until a few weeks ago when, listening to Chromeo's recent DJ Kicks mix, I bumped into Diane Tell's own "Tes Yeux," a (now) silly, insipid and insufferable piece of generic, adult-friendly AM radio pop that somehow, you know, got to me.
The entire scene is, needless to say, highly Oedipal: Young boy trades love of mother for love of music under the authoritarian gaze of the father, represses everything in the back of his unconscious only to have it all reignited in the form of unexplainable glee and exhilaration 25 years later. But therein lies Dave 1 and P-Thugg's craft: By exploring the peripheries of '80s electronic pop, Chromeo make the most obscure and vapid of memories the stuff of forward-thinking nostalgia. Which makes them, both in their own music and through their DJ sets, a very unique proposition indeed.
This is the duo's third mix, after the Eskimo-sponsored Un joli mix pour toi and the rare France-only Ce soir on danse! compilation. No drastic stylistic changes are to be expected on here, though: They've simply updated their discothèque a little bit. Consequently, their DJ Kicks relies on the same brand of synth-pop, vintage disco, digital funk and Italo references. The latter is immediately apparent with the two-note bass line of album opener "Ikeya-Seki" from Italo disco maestro Kano. That said, they don't hesitate to later include contemporary Italo-inspired house with "Sequencer," a jovial and uplifting cut from Lifelike. For the first time in a Chromeo mix, there seems to be a dialogue between eras and an upfront trading of influences, something that is only enhanced by the presence of contemporary nü-Balearica, courtesy of Lovelock ("Maybe Tonight"), and French electro hopefuls Chateau Marmont (with the Jean Michel Jarre-like "Solar Apex").
One of the most interesting things about the mix is the way that the duo try to make the very local Québec sound of the '80s universal. Fellow Montrealer Pierre Perpall (the lascivious "Viens danser"), local disco diva France "Gonna Get Over You" Joli and French Canada's own New-Wave-ish Italo anthem "Larmes de métal" by one-hit-wonder Soupir are all included. And then there's the duo's exclusive cut, the otherwise underwhelming and lukewarm "I Can't Tell You Why." Canned at the end of the mix, however, with the aforementioned un-ironic Diane Tell rarity and the skanky soft rock of "Pipeline" by The Alan Parson Project, sax solo and all, it kind of all makes sweet sense.
As for the mixing, it is actually quite decent, especially when you consider most tracks come from the pre-MIDI era and Chromeo aren't DJs. The abruptness of certain transitions is, at times, reminiscent of the most amateur offerings in the series, i.e. Annie and Erlend Øye. But you shouldn't hold that against them: Overall, this DJ Kicks is further proof the Chromeo guys know more than a thing or two about their '80s pop. (Dave 1's own grandmother used to babysit Corey Hart, so you know their credentials are sound.) But, more importantly, they know how powerful reminiscing about pop can be—no matter where (and when) it comes from. And you don't even need a personal attachment to any of the tracks on here to viscerally understand that.
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Tracklist: Chromeo - DJ Kicks 01. Kano - Ikeya-Seki
02. Pierre Perpall - J'aime Danser Avec Toi
03. Toba - Moving Up
04. France Joli - Gonna Get Over You
05. Donna Allen - Serious
06. Lovelock - Maybe Tonight
07. Chateau Marmont - Solar Antapex
08. Val Young - Seduction
09. Soupir - Larmes de Métal
10. Lifelike - Sequencer
11. Carmen - Time to Move
12. Shotgun - Don't You Wanna Make Love
13. Cheri - Murphy's Law!
14. Leo Sayer - Easy to Love
15. Shazam - Luckier
16. Chromeo - I Can't Tell You Why
17. Diane Tell - Tes Yeux
18. The Alan Parsons Project - Pipeline
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