Black Devil Disco Club: Circus
Lo Recordings

Royally living up to the group name, Black Devil Disco Club's strobe-lit disco-pop charges breathlessly forward on Circus's ten tidy tracks. The latest collection from French Italo-disco figure Bernard Fevre will get a lot of ink for featuring an eye-catching collection of guest vocalists that includes Jon Spencer (of Blues Explosion renown), Nancy Fortune, YACHT's Claire Evans, Poni Hoax's Nicholas Kerr, Nancy Sinatra, and Afrika Baambataa, but it's most noteworthy for the songs themselves. Fevre, of course, first established himself when the self-titled Black Devil Disco Club appeared in 1978 (even though it languished in relative obscurity until Aphex Twin and Luke Vibert reissued four of its tracks on Rephlex in 2004), and then garnered attention when he re-surfaced twenty-eight years later with—what else?—28 Later, a follow-up collection of sleek electronic tracks. Though some might hear echoes of Joy Division in the Black Devil Disco Club sound, I hear more Roxy Music (circa Siren) and even a little bit of Japan. It wouldn't be hard at all, for instance, to imagine Bryan Ferry crooning over a handful of the album's high-gloss confections.

Jon Spencer navigates the swinging, effervescent disco-funk of “Fuzzy Dream” with aplomb, while Aja Emma (of electro-pop outfit Cosmetics) does the same on the brooding “X Paradise,” a pulsating amalgam of electro, punk, and New Wave. The lyrically provocative “Stay Insane” finds Claire Evans declaiming that were Jesus to return to earth we would surely kill him. The inclusion of Nancy Sinatra might seem like an oddball move intended to garner publicity on grounds of novelty but, in fact, she fits into the album's overall scheme seamlessly. If anything, her track, “Too Ardent,” emphasizes all the more how central Fevre's instrumental arrangements are to the album; in this case the vocals are but one element within a fuller context where the songs themselves and the arrangements are as, if not more, important. The tight disco groove driving the viral “Distrust,” for example, proves to be as ear-catching as the vocal presence of The Horrors' Faris Badwan, and “Magnetic Devil,” if anything, appears to situate Afrika Bambaataa's bark within the mix rather than on top of it. All told, it's an unapologetically noisy album where ballads aren't welcome, it seems, and where every track bolts from the gate at peak volume and intensity. And give Fevre high marks too for designing the album so that every one of its ten tracks makes its point in three minutes and then gets out of the way, resulting in a thirty-five-minute release where every second counts.

March 2011