The '80s. You were into [B]Schoolly D[/B] and old-skool electro, right?...
The ’80s. You were into Schoolly D and old-skool electro, right? Body-popping with your homiez at block parties alongside James Lavelle and The Chemical Brothers? Chilling in your crib, busting a few moves, bugging out to Morgan Khan‘s ‘Streetsounds’ compilations?
Not Home Counties Parisian Jacques Lu Cont. His heroes were Harold Faltermeyer, Miami Sound Machine, Shalamar, John Foxx, Shannon, Nik Kershaw and Falco. And you can hear them all on this, his first full long-player. Literally, in some cases. And, yes, it is excellent.
Indeed, it is precisely this attitude-free freshness which gives Lu Cont his edge. There are pleasingly few stultifyingly ‘cool’ old-skool allusions on ‘Darkdancer’, and a refreshing lack of hollow so-bad-it’s-good kitsch. The vintage Visage synthscapes and [I]Doctor Who [/I]futurism of ‘Hypnotise’ are clearly products of peachy keen fanboy enthusiasm, as is the clunky Rock Steady Crew electro-pastiche of ‘(Hey You) What’s That Sound?’ and the heroically daft, varispeed vocoder squigglefest of ‘From: Disco To: Disco’. Here Lu Cont taps into an amusingly warped soundworld worthy of the master himself, Flat Eric.
For all his retro obsessions, though, the best tunes here blend ’80s influences with the liquid grooves of ’90s house. ‘Dreamin’‘ is a timeless, brightly-hued blast of joyously bouncy electro-disco, ‘Jacques Your Body (Make Me Sweat)’ an itchy excursion into clipped, Cassius-style squelch-funk. The only troublesome moments here are those featuring slinky soul crooner Thomas Ribiero. ‘Damaged People’ is especially incongruous – ’80s revivalism is fine, but recreating Seal‘s more forgettable career lowlights is beyond irony.
Then again, the 21-year-old Lu Cont grew up in the post-ironic era and insists there is nothing kitsch about his obsession with the Thatcher decade. Which explains why ‘Sometimes’, his collaboration with childhood icon – oh yes – Nik Kershaw, is a middling techno-pop ballad with no punchlines about Bacofoil suits. Competent and respectful, sure, but deeply anodyne. If anyone ever needed an advert for the benefits of irony, this is it.
Ultimately, ‘Darkdancer’ is like the soundtrack to a fairground dodgem ride in about, ooh, 1986. It’s not clever, but it’s smart. It’s not deep, just sincerely felt. The Human League/Shakatak crossover may only exist in the mind of an irreverent maverick like Lu Cont, but thanks to life-affirming albums like this, they’ll always be together in electric dreams.