Today’s beat klatches have it backward. Instead of using their dancefloor cred to get so popular they can sit back recounting their postpunk, ’80s roots with the and-your-point-is obviousness of a Chris Farley interview skit (“Remember we all used to like punk and play guitar? That was cool”), Daft Punk/Basement Jaxx/Air/etc. could take a few cues from Richard Morel and start out with the postpunk stuff—and then, guys, if the DJs wanna hop on your dicks anyway, hey great. Morel is a Washington, D.C.-based leather queen-cum-beat poet who dresses like Rob Halford, emotes like Leonard Cohen, but most of all has the nasally majesty and lyrics to hold together an album that revels in new wave as much as it does BPMs.
He can bust with the queer-as-carrying-your-dog-in-a-baby-Snugli wooze of “Cabaret 1 + 2” (as if the name isn’t clue enough) and its smoky-breathed torch haiku like “With your Nazi balloons and your parties/Did the German boy let you down? I do all I can to remember what it was like having you around,” only to launch into plush, Jesus and Mary Chain nuggetry like “Ride.” Morel’s songs are as unafraid to be camp as they are to be full of conviction. “Wake-Up” even samples “Gimme Shelter” ‘s reverb guitar to sing the postcoital blues.
Morel’s real guilty pleasure, though, is having the dancefloor and telling it to eat it, too. The originally waltzy “True” (then subtitled “The Faggot Is You,” after being remixed into a heaving Love and Rockets-gone-death-disco club hit by Deep Dish, who were trading favors for using Morel’s vocals on their “Mohammed Is Jesus” single) wound up as the studs-and-straps centerpiece to John Digweed’s otherwise tame 1999 Bedrock mix CD. The thought of thousands of Twilo refugees high out of their little straight-queen minds singing, “He said, ‘You’re a pussy like RuPaul’/I’m a man, that is all/It’s true, the faggot is you”—now, that is punk rock.