Food, Clothing, and . . .
Twelve years is an eternity in New York clubland. So it’s somewhat miraculous that the deep-house haven Shelter is still thriving a dozen years on. Then again, maybe that’s not so surprising. Timmy Regisford’s longtime DJ home is built on reliable components: pumping disco beats with long, breathless climaxes built in, liberally ladled with Afro-Latin percussion, and a notable lack of fear of—what do you call them again? Oh yeah, songs. Plenty of peace-love-togetherness rhetoric, too, but the hippie ideology comes attached to a rigor most longhairs disdained—Shelter’s 12th anniversary celebration began at 11 p.m. Saturday and lasted until mid-afternoon Sunday. “You better work,” indeed.
Your correspondent couldn’t stay the entire night, but did manage to stick around long enough to see two different men duck into unused corners of the giant space to change out of sweat-soaked shirts into fresh ones and begin partying anew. (With the Winter Music Conference on the horizon, the word “Miami” was overheard approximately 157 times, as well.) The top floor, where headliners performed, was so vacuum packed that security had to halt the traffic just to air it out a bit.
The music was too tasteful at times—deep house’s biggest crutch—but things did get hectic when jocks dropped some early Chicago “jack tracks” or classic Salsoul, and especially when Regisford himself took the decks around 5:30 a.m. Dropping smart remixes of First Choice’s “The Player” and Ralphi Rosario’s “You Used to Hold Me,” he then amped the crowd higher with Nuyorican Soul’s “It’s All Right, I Feel It.” There was nothing smooth about Regisford’s mix—it was abrupt and a little jarring, like he’d decided at the last moment that this was the song he had to play right now. And it was; on a night like this, perfection took a backseat to inspiration. —Michaelangelo Matos
Someone You Really Love
Damon Albarn is keeping his perfect chin up, but it’s been a rough couple months. First, Blur mate Graham Coxon dumped the band and dissed his replacement (“It’s kind of not too difficult a job,” Coxon sniffed to NME), which could prove worse for Albarn than when he lost Elastica’s Justine Frischman. On February 15, Albarn helped lead Britain’s largest ever anti-war march, but at press time W. was getting ready to woo-hoo Baghdad. And last week, bass player Alex James didn’t get a visa for stateside warm-up shows at SXSW and here, so Sunday’s unadvertised Bowery Ballroom date (if you don’t read TheModernAge.org, you didn’t get a ticket) was only the second outing for the four-day-old lineup of the geezers of Britpop. Already our hero, a onetime Ritalin spokesmodel, was looking knackered. “Love in the ’90s was paranoid,” he recalled in a halfhearted “Girls and Boys”; posing under flashing color wheels, playing his guitar like Flavor Flav played the clock, he could have been the high point of a Brighton Beach bar mitzvah.
Of course, Albarn makes great breakup records, and he woke up some for the new songs, especially those (like “Crazy Beat,” the first U.S. single, and the peppy “Moroccan People’s Revolutionary Bowls Club”) that draw on his time off dancing with Gorillaz. But he didn’t really get his pogo working until “Song 2” (has ever a song been more of its time than “Song 2”?), and he couldn’t get the band to click until the final encore, “This Is a Low,” a Bowie-ism with a melody big enough for Coldplay to drive an album through. Right now Coldplay are bigger, deeper, and probably better, and Chris Martin is cuter and has a glamourpuss girlfriend. Add those to the list of Albarn’s indignities. But does Martin have any idea what he’s in for? —Josh Goldfein
SoundScan of Our Lives
As American pop culture’s reach continues unabated through world crisis, periodically checking out the blowback effects serves as a reminder of just how much the red, white, and blue gorilla defines the rules of pop engagement too.
This was made abundantly clear by Swedish consul general Olle Wastberg at his cocktail party kicking off the second annual Export Music Sweden Showcase at CBGB (March 10 and 11). Explaining that in 2002 Sweden became the world’s third largest pop music exporter (behind the U.S. and the U.K.), Wastberg toasted ExMS, a political action cum tourist organization funded by key Swedish music industrialists, and raised the hope that pop might surpass timber and ball-bearings in stocking the nation’s socialist-economy coffers. His statements received the kind of warm reception the RIAA must pray for.
Treating pop product as raw commodity is a job for tariff-busting politicos, but creating market-worthy goods remains the artist’s domain, and if those suck, the acumen of your marketing plan just doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, the bands ExMS brought this year didn’t measure up to last year’s participants. While Euro-rockers like Sigur Rós and Notwist are currently cultivating voices ripened by local pretensions, this Swedish parade followed the strict American subculture blueprint devised a decade ago by generational marketers Widen & Kennedy. For every rough talent like the unfortunately named Whyte Seeds (a five-piece in need of a stylist, who channeled GBV’s ’60s harmonies through Stiff’s pub-punk prism in one great pop song after another), there was a wax museum’s worth of familiar poses. And despite the chops and professionalism of these new bohemians (Pineforest Crunch), metallic grunge kids (Prime STH), bloodshot country squawkers ($1000 Playboys), and Kim Wilde Appreciation Society voguers (the Sounds), the fingerprints on their costumes were indisputably the gorilla’s. —Piotr Orlov