Italian duo Crookers have helped articulate the shift from one paradigm to the other. Indeed, you could take their pervasive remix of Kid Cudi's "Day N Nite" as an irrevocable turning point. Yet, at the same time, we all know the line separating the underground from the mainstream has always been a tenuous and, thankfully, a porous one, which makes for plenty of unexpected cross-fertilization. Crookers make a strong case in point with Tons of Friends, a one-size-fits-all partying full-length of 20 cuts with vocalists and guest producers that come from all areas of the pop, electronic and hip-hop music worlds.
What's striking on first listen is how Crookers adapt themselves to accommodate their various friends. Album opener "We Love Animals" allows the Soulwax brothers enough space to expose their trademark scorching synthetic euphoria-building tweeks. "No Security," an even more pressing number, has the surprisingly convincing Kelis reborn as an electro priestess. French kindergarten chanteuse Yelle is offered a bunch of Fisher Price-like beats and bleeps that suit her nursery rhymes quite well on "Cooler Couleur," and there is even a hip-hop sequence in the first half of the album during which established rappers such as Pitbull (the jocky "Natural Born Hustler") and Will.i.am (the unsurprisingly Black Eyed Peas-like "Let's Get Beezy") rub shoulders with Spank Rock (the darker and unsettling "Park the Truck") and Rye Rye (the playful "Hip Hop Changed") without it ever appearing contrived or contradictory.
British oddball Roisin Murphy is no stranger to successes of Ibizan proportion, and you'd suspect her two collaborations on here would verge on the summery, accessible side of things. Instead, they retain all of her eccentricity and edginess: both "Hold Up Your Hand" and "Royal T" have a dubstep aura that further point to the sub-genre's unlikely pop potential. This bass-heavy feel is also apparent on the persuasively pumping "Transilvania" (with the Grace Jones-sounding Steed Lord) or with the more pleasingly accessible "Have Mercy" featuring Carrie Wilds. These all are thrilling, albeit disjointed, moments that prove how Crookers obviously have an imaginative pop sensibility.
It isn't always this successful, though. Take the Miike Snow-sung "Remedy," which is itself a remake of the Swedish trio's own "In Search Of" from their Animal album. The original might be impressive in its combination of mechanical piano motifs and tension-building rhythms, but the Crookers version unfortunately sounds shambolic, awkward and slightly off-key. "Lone White Wolf" is even more puzzling: it showcases The Charlatans' Tim Burgess doing a weird kind of modern-day blues number with electronic means and a twangy guitar. Even though Burgess is no stranger to the idea of lending his voice and his debonair persona to producing wizards ("Life is Sweet" from The Chemical Brothers' first album remains one of the British duo's most perfectly realized collaborations to date), the end result sounds as if he was raised in New Orleans on a strict diet of Johnny Cash records, bad drugs and a faulty sampler.
Tons of Friends is a kaleidoscopic listen, even dizzying at times, to the point it might appear grotesque in its all-encompassing ambitions. The fact a lot of the tracks rarely venture over the three-minute mark only adds to the sense of overall urgency and thus mirrors the speed-fueled, reduced attention span of the so-called average electro-house devotee. But that shouldn't detract from the fact the album also displays a genuine sense of fun and sheer versatility, something Crookers obviously developed through their various remixing jobs and their incessant touring schedule. In the end, where else could you hear Kelis howling next to Murphy and Will.i.am sharing the stage with Ghislain Poirier or Major Lazer and, most importantly, have it all make some sort of... sense?
Thu / 29 Apr 2010
01. We Love Animals feat. Soulwax & Mixhell
02. No Security feat. Kelis
03. Natural Born Hustler feat. Pitbull
04. Lets Get Beazy feat. Will I Am
05. Park the Truck feat. Spank Rock
06. Hold Up Your Hand feat. Roisin Murphy
07. Hip Hop Changed feat. Rye Rye
08. Cooler Couleur feat. Yelle
09. Birthday Bash feat. The Very Best, Marina & Dargen D'Amico
10. Put Your Hands On Me feat. Kardinal Offishall & Carla Marie
11. Royal T feat. Roisin Murphy
12. Remedy feat. Miike Snow
13. Arena feat. Poirier & Face-T
14. Tee-Pee Theme feat. Drop The Lime
15. Transilvania feat. Steed Lord
16. Have Mercy feat. Carrie
17. Jump Up feat. Major Lazer, Leftside & Supahype
18. Lone White Wolf feat. Tim Burgess
19. Day N' Nite (Acapella Skit)
20. Embrace The Martian feat. Kid Cudi