- Strut Records were there first. When the DFA brought the human touch back to dance music; when the DFA recorded the first sweaty palm slapping the first bass string of The Rapture’s Sub Pop debut; when their leader James Murphy picked up a mic and delivered his State of the Scene address ‘Losing My Edge’ (“I was the first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids”). When all this happened, Strut were there. Standing on the sidelines, shaking their heads and waving a copy of Disco Not Disco.
DND preceded the punk funk explosion by a good two years, and pre-empted it with tracks already two decades old. It featured the earliest guitar bands to use their instruments to rock discotheques—Material, Loose Joints, Was (Not Was)—and formed the template for the DFA sound. By the time ‘House of Jealous Lovers’ hit the charts, Strut had released two compilations of “leftfield disco classics from the New York underground” and soon sold out of both.
But it’s 2008, and no one talks about “punk funk” any more. Surely Disco Not Disco has nothing left to offer? Well, from the opening tracks of the new edition, the continuing relevance of the series is obvious. A whole generation of bands has followed Murphy’s example and “sold their turntables and bought guitars”—and for the likes of CSS, Cut Copy and Klaxons, the original dance rock acts are essential listening. Still, compilers Quinton Scott and Last Night A DJ Saved My Life author Bill Brewster know when it’s time to move on. With a James White & The Blacks remix by August Darnell AKA Kid Creole they bridge the gap between punk funk and disco, just like DFA have, and their recent signings (Holy Ghost, Mock & Toof, Prinzhorn Dance School) could learn a lot here. The oddities that close the disc include precursors of nu disco, electro and techno, which begs the question: is there an electronic genre that wasn’t invented in New York City between 1974 and 1986?
So the latest DND follows the same arc and tells the same broad story as previous volumes, but the songs are so full of experiments and happy accidents that even the oldest (34 years old!) sound fresh. The loose-limbed, low-slung funk of Shriekback’s ‘My Spine Is A Bassline’ permits surreal lyrics and a broken viola “solo”, and on ‘Mind Your Own Business’ the solid bottom end provided by two basses allows Delta 5’s double tracked vocals to run riot. When Konk’s bassist was off partying with one of Madonna’s dancers (you gotta *heart* NY) they used sequencers for the first time to create ‘Your Party’: an extended jam of drum machines, live percussion, sax and chanting. A Number Of Names’ lo-fi production of their proto-techno track ‘Sharevari’ gives it a raw edge and, next to the pristine 2002 remixes by Ectomorph and The Hacker & Vitalic, it sounds like the dance equivalent of a garage band.
Anyone who has either of the previous Disco Not Discos already knows this is indispensable. Everyone else lucked out—because you finally have the chance to hear a seminal slice of classic music that continues to make its influence felt. Just make sure you pick this up before it sells out.
01 Vivien Goldman – Launderette
02 Delta 5 – Mind Your Own Business
03 Shriekback – My Spine Is The Bassline
04 Konk – Your Life
05 Isotope – Crunch Cake
06 James White & The Blacks – Contort Yourself (August Darnell remix)
07 Quando Quango – Love Tempo (remix)
08 Gina X Performance – Kaddish
09 Material – Don’t Lose Control (Dance version)
10 Kazino – Binary
11 Liaisons Dangereuses – Los Ninos Del Parque (12” mix)
12 A Number Of Names – Sharevari (Instrumental)
13 Six Sed Red – Beat ‘Em Right
14 Maximum Joy – Silent Street / Silent Dub