Hercules & Love Affair

Glorious dance music from an unlikely, warbling source

I couldn't say if it was Antony Hegarty's off-color voice or sodden tunes that pummeled my regurgitation muscles while everyone praised his triumphant I Am a Bird Now, but in any event, I certainly didn't expect him to anchor a triumphant bit of Brooklyn neo-disco. Nonetheless, from the first moments of "Time Will"—a boom-boom-snap backing Antony's eerily sexy and upright command "Don't lie to me" (a lyrical staple of both pop and disco)—you have to ask: Why didn't anyone think of this sooner? His quavering acrobatics are a perfect fit for sensational dance music. It's startling, the ease with which the unrepentant drama queen inhabits this relationship time-out, an unaffected sadness he might yet know. His voice—lonely and forlorn as it's framed by room-temperature synthesizers buzzing unsympathetically—has finally found its true calling.

It's a hell of an opening tack for Andy Butler, the DFA-certified DJ who dreamed up the glorious funkscapes on Hercules & Love Affair, the full-length, self-titled expansion of last year's "Roar"/"Classique #2" single. Now, we get not just disco divas but Moulin Rouge dioramas in Technicolor surround sound: "Hercules Theme" jams together Kool & the Gang horn lines, lascivious wah-funk, and overhead pinches of strings crashing into booming dollops of kick and snare. If the result doesn't quite amount to Saturday Night Fever, it certainly turns up the heat: Try the way the agile bass parts jog around "Athene" and "Raise Me Up."

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Hercules & Love Affair
DFA

The party holds strong into the second half, where the comedown always muddles the songwriting a little. Surprise: Antony's dramatic ululations return to rescue the trawling sonics. Where once it was hard to decide whether he was the problem or merely his tastes, it's now fun to see Hegarty dropping anchor when Butler's ambitions get too cumbersome and his slow ones sound out of breath. And when these two guys meet each perfectly—as on the projected summer hit "Blind," a mélange of Primal Scream's "Swastika Eyes" and Blur's "Girls and Boys"—they really do climb to the mythic heights of Hercules' heroic namesake.

 
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