I don't know if other people find Telepathe disturbing, but the robo-chant icy women over throbbing mechanized oscillators and flood-the-room synthetics has a terrifying allure for me. Most of the tracks on Dance Mother are dancefloor friendly, possessing the predictable rise-and-cut architecture of the average techno single. As new wave revisionism goes, it is flawless in its chilly plasticine sexuality, but there is something more complex, perhaps sinister lurking within.
That dark nature rears its head by track two, the deceptively engaging "Chrome's On It." The group lures you in like sirens of lore with their dreamy synths and cooing only to quickly devolve into a semi-inane, herky-jerky chant of I can do the real bang bang, I can do the real thang thang, while one of the other singers paints life as an unfocused fight:
Keep the fire started
Take the tired martyr out
Like a diver's saddle
Bring back the sharpest battle
No, it doesn't make a lot of linear sense, but we are jacking in to the heart of the machine; it doesn't have to make sense. It just has to work through its programming, and in expressing that is where Telepathe hits its stride. "Devil's Trident" contains a monologue is cast against a net of barely cooperating pulses. Over those relentless beats are carried the unfocused despair of a Beckett play over relentless beats, as if old man Krapp was droning on into the mic of a DJ booth instead of a tape recorder in his dingy apartment.
Even on the more cuddly tracks are fraught with troubling, existential despair, and I like it. "Michael" get confessional at the jump with
This voice is a church
and the words are me
They look at me every morning
They look at me and start their therapy
Only to offer up shocking fragments like my greatest dream would be to destroy you/Your greatest dream would be to destroy me and I want to watch you suffer violently and Found the birthplace for a bloody corpse as the narrative unfolds, conflating the narrator and the deranged subject, until one becomes a conduit for the other's transcendence
Go ahead, and come so
God is watching, you know you're a star
all over the flickering neon glow and microwave warmth of its rippling drum machine. Dance Mother is the rare new wave revivalist track that taps into the potential that gave the original wave its strength. Spend any time on a modern dance floor and it is easy to acquiesce to the beat, rise and fall with it. The fleshy mess of our lives craves its crystalline order for equilibrium. It is a delivery mechanism, like an IV drip, to convey a message into our system. It can reliably get the party started, create a barrier between ourselves and worry, or as demonstrated here, can lower our shields and push us closer to the edge.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com