By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
ATC "Around the World (La La La La La)"
As in: New York London Paris Munich, "the radio playing songs that I never heard," which concept turns haunting as two Euroboys and two Eurogirls all squeezed from the same zit-cream tube lament loneliness in their empty hotel room to a desolate music-box tune somewhere between "Classical Gas" and "Axel F," over synthesizers spare enough to pass for Steve Reich mallet instruments. Yet like Chicago house architect Marshall Jefferson, they believe music is the key to set them free from trouble, drugs, and increasing poverty. And they break down into a poetry recital to boot.
"Bouncing off the Ceiling (Upside Down)"
Jump up, jump up, and jump down. If you've got the feeling, dance across the ceiling. Two more Euroboys and two more Eurogirls, from an album called Teen Spirit, feeling stupid and contagious indeed: "My grades are down from A's to D's/I'm way behind in history." Don't know much about a science book; don't know much about the French I took. The boys don't know English so good, either, but the girls do OK by Four Seasons "bye-yi-yi"s. And when the tempo slows, the toothache hooks evaporate. Well whatever, nevermind.
CHRISTINA AGUILERA, LIL' KIM, MYA & PINK
The moral equivalent of Ricky Martin collaborating with Eminem and LFO on a cover of "Walk on the Wild Side," and with even glammier guitars than Labelle gave us, though it's still a mystery whether the ever more mythic Ms. Marmalade shaved her legs and then he was a she. Trannie or no, she's apparently still a Creole prostitute dishing out magnolia wine and mocha chocolata ya ya to an out-of-town white businessman taking a red-light break from his 9-to-5 until his savage beast inside roars to the clouds. And though her black satin sheets are now at the Moulin Rouge instead of on Bourbon Street, the second-line-rooted syncopation still boils gumbo like it's Mardi Gras.
EMPEROR PENGUIN Damn
(My Pal God EP)
"Disco Party at the Castle of Love Tonight," vocodered with almost enough unabashedly sad Alpine beauty to forgive Chicago's "post-rock" scene for a decade of Tortoise and Sea and Cake fusion-wank water torture, is the most delectable faux-Eurodisco song about dancing in underwear since Change's 1980 "It's a Girl's Affair," but this time the girls are doing their hair, too, and the castle of love sounds like it's perched on the Disco Mountain that David Shire doodled about on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. After that: a mournful penguin-café-orchestrated pipe-organ instrumental slowly stretched onstage; a PSA called "Neighborhood Watch (We Call the Police)" taking a bite out of crime in two parts; some fusion-wank water torture amusingly titled "Wizard Dude" that doesn't last too long.
THOMAS RIBEIRO Rideonastar
A great wailing über-macho Santa Esmeralda-style Mediterranean blues voice builds into growls and yelps until you can't tell if it's a guitar or not, then goes robot on us as upswooping semisymphonic sci-fi bombast hitches itself to a melody and metaphors out of early Bowie and absolutely over-the-top-flamboyant rock-Eurodisco propulsion, 25 years after the fact: "You are my fantasy, and through your alien eyes there's a galaxy. . . . Tell me is there life on Mars." Which ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. Then our manly man covers "Bette Davis Eyes" so it's ferocious and precocious and knows just what it takes to make a pro blush, misquoting lyrics ("fill the bathtub just to please ya"!), and saving Prince's "I Wanna Be Your Lover" bassline for the extended 12-inch remix. All the boys think he's a guy; he's got Sammy Davis eye. A full-on hair-metal power ballad about divine intervention sifts time through an hourglass and beckons you to ride on the singer's caravan, then Ribeiro returns to an ominous track he first belted two years ago on a Les Rythmes Digitales album, begging you for a needle and to look into his black amphetamine eyes as Lucifer rises in his head. Then finally, over a mere alarm-clock tick of percussion, some almost famous music shamelessly swiped from Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" marries a plot out of Van Morrison's "Blue Money" or Duran Duran's "Girls on Film" or the Fabulous Poodles' "Tit Photographer Blues" or Boogie Nights or Andrea True's life story. "If you wanna know how I really feel, get the camera rolling," Andrea warbled in her one and only hit. "The film is loaded and my camera's rolling," Thomas Ribeiro answers here. The mescaline (or is it masculine?) angel he's shooting has on black leather and silk pantyhose, he tells us. And glitter on her wings.