Dance music is so gay.
By Gregg Shapiro
Photo by Lynn Goldsmith
Beginning in the mid-1980s, pop duos Erasure and Pet Shop Boys were at the forefront of electronic dance music, gay or straight. Teamed up with hetero Vince Clarke (of Depeche Mode and Yaz renown) as Erasure, the flaming and fabulous Andy Bell, with a set of pipes to rival Clarke’s former musical partner Alison Moyet, leaped into our lives, and we simply couldn’t imagine a world without him.
The Erasure story is celebrated vividly on the four-disc set (three CDs and one DVD) Total Pop! Deluxe Box: The First 40 Hits (Mute/Sire/Rhino). Spanning a period of more than 20 years, this thorough compilation demonstrates that Bell and Clarke have a knack for creating exhilarating dance music. A majority of the 41 tracks on the first two discs of studio recordings speak well for Erasure’s considerable contributions to the genre. Early hits such as “Oh, L’Amour,” “Sometimes,” “It Doesn’t Have to Be,” “Chains of Love,” and “A Little Respect” went a long way in establishing Erasure’s credibility. The tradition continued with such fierce numbers as “Stop!,” “Drama!,” and “Love to Hate You,” not to mention Erasure’s ABBA activities, represented here by “Take a Chance on Me.”
Of course, Erasure is much more than a dance duo and could play the drama card as well on ballads, including “Stay With Me” and “Ship of Fools.” Because the complete Erasure experience includes concert performance and a visual component, a live CD spanning 20 years and a DVD of BBC TV appearances round out the package.
You can dance to the Pet Shop Boys ‘ new album, Yes (Astralwerks), but you might have to work at it. Bouncy opener “Love Etc.,” in which Neil Tennant declares that you “don’t have to be beautiful, but it helps,” might set you in motion, but “All Over the World,” which incorporates “The Nutcracker Suite,” is harder to pin down. The “beauty” theme continues on “Beautiful People,” which has a retro beat more akin to Duffy or Adele. “Did You See Me Coming?” is reminiscent of Very -era PSB, while “More Than a Dream” dabbles in futuristic electro. “King of Rome” and “Legacy” are two more low-key, albeit dramatic, numbers. “Pandemonium” almost lives up to its name, and the equally rhythmic “The Way It Used to Be” left me longing for the Pet Shop Boys of old.
Larry Tee is probably grateful to Erasure and Pet Shop Boys for paving the way for him to indulge in his dance-music diversions. The proud papa of electro, Tee unleashes a torrent of blistering beats on his latest album Club Badd (Ultra). Far smuttier than anything ever let loose by Erasure or PSB, songs such as “Let’s Make Nasty,” “Licky (Work It Out),” “Get Your Grind On,” “Clap That Ass,” “My Penis,” and its companion, “My Pussy,” will make your ears burn and ring simultaneously. As it turns out, Tee is just as conscious of fashion as he is passion, as you can hear on “Louis Vuitton,” “Agyness Deyn,” and his remix of Kelly’s “Shoes.”
Mixed gender duo Mynx also dips its paws into the cookie jar of ’80s retro electro beats for its five-track Out of Sight, Out of Mind (wearemynx.com) EP. You can satisfy all of your dancing needs with the cuts “Kissie Show,” “Wolfgang Bang,” and the judgmental bravado of the bonus track “I’m So L.A.”
Hats off to Jason Antone who deserves to be crowned the new gay disco god. The guy can sing, which works in his favor, and he sings his heart out from start to finish on his new album Start to Move (Chickie). He’s at his most compelling on straightforward dance-floor sensations ranging from his admirable reimagining of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” through moving originals including the title tune, “Ooh Ooh Ooh,” “Function,” “Feelin’ You,” and “How’s Anybody Gonna Love You Like That.” Beware of “More Than Friends” on which Antone sounds like he’s doing a Barry Manilow impersonation.
After establishing himself in our collective awareness with his 2007 debut full-length Allnighter, foxy Frenchman Naommon is back with Love Is Struggling (naommon.com). Apparently unable to part with four tracks from that disc—“Allnighter,” “This Quirk Is Love,” “You Go to My Head,” and “Make It Right”—all make reappearances on the new album. As far as the new songs are concerned, Naommon is at his exotic best on the title tune, “Shake to the Earthquake,” and the bonus cut “You Don’t Realize (RMX).”
On Crypto-Superzeit! International (Johann’s Face), Aspic Tines (a musical alias) pay homage to the late, great Klaus Nomi with a dazzling set of otherworldly German new wave-inspired tunes. This is first and foremost a dance record of near-epic proportions, and songs such as “Music of the Spheres,” “Magic Life,” “Der Punk Gesagt,” “Rocket Lover,” and a cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Holiday in Cambodia” will have you donning a black turtleneck and doing your best to emulate Dieter from Sprockets . “Right-On! Galaxies,” and to a lesser extent “Atmosphere,” even dabbles in Nomi’s fondness for the operatic.
Gregg Shapiro is a past recipient of the annual OutMusic award that recognizes contributions by non-musicians in furthering the work of GLBT performers.