Dancing toward Springtime
With Derek Nicoletto, Cody Critcheloe, Lipps Inc., and more.
by Gregg Shapiro
Some of you may remember Derek Nicoletto from his band Telling on Trixie. In that incarnation, Nicoletto was a forceful queer rocker. As a solo act, Nicoletto favors synth-pop with all of its dance-music associations. Picking up where his 2011 solo debut left off, on the six-song EP Just Panic and Get It Over With (7 Trick Pony), Nicoletto serves up big beats on the royally funky “Kings Are We.” It’s the kind of exhilarating song you can strut around the dance floor to like the big queen that you are. “F5” keeps the dance-party panic going and your heart rate racing. “Mother Numb It” dips into the drum’n bass pool and comes up dripping dizzying beats. “Blink of an Eye,” the sexiest cut, has spring dance anthem written all over it, while “Hell in Gramercy” indicates that Nicoletto hasn’t abandoned his harder-edged side.
Cody Critcheloe and his Ssion crew have returned with the fittingly named Bent (Dovecote), opening with “Listen to the Girls,” in which he sings “Take it like a man, girl/If that’s what you want,” to a vintage disco beat. The deep, dark, and delicious grooves continue on the Deee-Lite-ful “Blonde with U” in which he sings about “doing poppers on the treadmill” and how much he loves Los Angeles. “Luvbazaar” pays its respects to Prince, and it won’t take long for the underground vibe of “Growin” to grow on you. “Credit in the Straight World” indicates a newfound maturity. The disc also boasts four bonus tracks including the ecstatic Avan Lava remix of “Psy-Chic.”
Gays of a certain age will surely go ga-ga for the expanded (and imported!) CD reissue of Mouth to Mouth (Big Break/Cherry Red) by Lipps, Inc. Containing the massive 1980 hit single “Funkytown,” one of the last sensations of the disco era’s first wave, Mouth to Mouth is a big wet sloppy kiss, tongue included. Did someone say, “More cowbell”? There’s plenty to be found in “Funkytown,” not to mention vocoder, disco diva vocals (courtesy of Cynthia Johnson), and enticing beats, bass line, and keyboards. If the song hadn’t been a chart-topper, it might sound more dated than it does, but its classic status saves it from that fate. While none of the other original album tracks, including “All Night Dancing,” the derivative “Rock It,” or “Power” can match the longevity of “Funkytown,” the disc is a fun dance down memory lane.
If 1980 isn’t far enough back in time for you, consider the reissues of Chubby Checker’s It’s Pony Time/Let’s Twist Again (ABKCO/Real Gone Music), now available on one CD. Since dance crazes continue to be the, well, craze (see Harlem Shakes), now’s as good a time as any to explore the vintage dance steps Checker sings about on It’s Pony Time, including “The Watusi,” “The Hully Gully,” “The Stroll,” “The Mashed Potatoes,” and “The Shimmy,” to mention a few. The beat and rhythm of Checker’s trademark dance, the Twist, is applied to standards such as “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Ballin’ the Jack,” among others, on Let’s Twist Again.
More modern tastes will probably find satisfaction with Lightning (Fader Label), the fourth full-length disc by the duo Matt & Kim. Matt (Johnson) and Kim (Schifino) regularly come across as a dance-obsessed version of Mates of State (that’s meant as a compliment), and with Lightning they’ve struck something. “Let’s Go” has crossover (read: hit) potential, while the beat shifts in “Now” might be a little off-putting. Hand-clapper “Tonight” is the most complete dance-experience on the disc, and “Not That Bad” lives up to its name.
They’re dancing Down Under, if new albums by Gold Fields and Atlas Genius are any indication. “Meet My Friends” sets a new-wave revival tone on Black Sun (Astralwerks) by Gold Fields. Then a definite shift toward the dance club occurs in the radiant single “Dark Again.” That level of dance energy is maintained on “Treehouse,” “Thunder,” “Closest I Could Get,” and “Moves,” a song that allows you to show off the dance moves you’ve been practicing. Unlike Gold Fields, Atlas Genius wastes no time showing us what they can do with a dance beat on the fittingly named “Electric,” the opening cut on When It Was Now (WB). They brilliantly keep the beats coming on “Back Seat,” the anthemic “On a Day,” and their trademark track “Trojans,” to name a few.
Obviously, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, or else Imagine Dragons and The Killers wouldn’t have music careers. On their major-label debut Night Visions (Kid in a Korner/Interscope), Imagine Dragons slips in and out of a few dance-related genres (i.e. hip-hop, electro, dance-rock) with interesting, if not earth-shattering, results. In terms of imaginative dance tracks, check out “It’s Time,” “Tiptoe,” “Amsterdam,” and “Hear Me.” New-wave revivalists The Killers fully embrace their dance side with the Jacques Lu Cont remix of “Flesh and Bone,” a bonus track on their Battle Born (Island) disc.