With my rep around here as a glowstick-waving techno-bunny, I try to restrict my postings about dance music (really!), so the Riff doesn’t turn into, you know, XLR8R‘s Dubstep Blog. But every once in a while an electronic full-length comes along that sticks in my head and seems like a candidate for mass crossover success, and right now that CD is the fantastic debut from Calvin Harris.
Another Scottish wunderkind, his clearest antecedent in the realm of solo Scot electro producers is, of course, the brilliant Mylo, and their styles do have some similarities, especially a kind of cheeky take on a certain decade between the ’70s and the ’90s. But while Mylo often seems to veer off into hypnotic, dreamy chill-out sounds (and doesn’t sing), Harris is all about getting down and dirty on the dance floor, and strutting his stuff with winking, goofy vocals. Check out “Vegas,” in which he insists, in a kind of Zen koan of partying, “I’ve got my car, and my ride, and my wheels… I’ve got my drugs, and my stuff, and my pills”:
Just when it seems like the funky bassline is all we get, an unexpected chord pattern swoops in over the top, giving the track a strange edge of uncertainty.
Despite the straightforward retro-electro sounds, Harris’ voice means there’s a whole set of interesting references at play here: Tom Vek, Jonathan Richman, goofier Beck. Check out “Merrymaking at My Place,” in which Harris invites people into his house, for a party that actually seems pretty tame. Is somebody roasting a turkey?
His biggest hit so far, “Acceptable in the 80s,” is enough to make those of us in our (ahem) late 30s feel really old: “I got hugs for you if you were born in the ’80s”:
It seems like we’re so far removed from the original intent of the early electro bands like Human League that computerized sounds are now just part of the landscape; when you were born in the ’80s, picking up a drum machine isn’t any different from picking up a guitar. On I Created Disco, Calvin Harris, well, doesn’t really even make any disco. He just puts together an addictive, surprising party record; not bad for a 23-year-old.
I Created Disco is out now on Columbia.
P.S. I just know some Sigur Ros fan is going to use this as an example of why I’m a moron, but I don’t care.