Chromeo - Business Casual

A notably disappointing showcase of new material.

In 2007, Montreal-based electro-funk duo Chromeo broke onto the mainstream music scene in a big way with their loveably kitsch sophomore album, ‘Fancy Footwork’. The album playfully showcased Dave 1 and P-Thugg’s unique melding of 1980’s pop-funk nostalgia with a contemporary high-gloss electro-hop backbone. However, it was also this same strong sense of throwback irony that led the album’s overall relevancy to peak and wane relatively quick. So for their latest release it would have seemed appropriate to supplement a little bit more sophistication and roundedness to the album to make it standout among plethora of 1980’s obsessed electro acts.

Somewhat disappointingly, it seems that Chromeo’s ‘Business Casual’ all too-closely follows the ‘Fancy Footwork’ modus operandi that delivered the band their initial acclaim. In many regards it’s a mildly upgraded Version 2.0, which allows for a fairly pleasant first listen, but at same time makes this a notably disappointing showcase of new material. Consistency is a double-edged sword for Chromeo that on the one hand promises a few killer Hall and Oats-influenced dance floor hits, but also guarantees a fairly monotonous catalogue of songs that quickly finds itself being defined only by the handful of singles that are thrown into a playlist labeled ‘Party’.

That being said, like its predecessors ‘Business Causal’ is an upbeat dance record about love in all its forms. From booty calls duets to heartbroken ballads, Dave 1 smoothly sings his geeky heart out with talk-box aficionado sidekick P-Thugg offering vocoded call-back support. This well oiled R&B synth-funk formula is perfectly outlined in the album opener, ‘Hot Mess’. On the track Dave 1 finds himself in conversation with an discontent lover who he shamelessly attempts to explain himself to singing, “I know my temper has been kind of crazy / Your love is real but I just feel suffocated” while P-Thugg robotically interjects with, “I need somebody, I need someone / I feel so lonely, I feel so numb.”

The album is lined with numerous hip shaking tunes like ‘I’m Contagious’, ‘Don’t Turn the Lights On’, and ‘The Right Type’, but the clear dance floor standout is the disco-themed, guitar-laden ‘Eye of the Tiger’-esque track ‘Night by Night’. In typical Chromeo fashion the song perfectly recalls both the overdriven rock licks and pulsing synth-pop of 1980’s while still subtly elaborating on these themes with potent millennial funktronica that slightly recalls Daft Punk. ‘J’ai Claque la Porte’ is a brief, yet interesting, departure for the duo that features David 1 on a classical guitar singing the song completely in French. Some critics may reference this track as argument enough that ‘Business Casual’ is a more progressive release than Chromeo’s previous albums. However, the somewhat fluffy number is also arguably not by a long shot one the strongest tracks on album with its 1980’s French teen coming-of-age film vibe. It would more likely be categorized as parody rather than being categorized as anything remarkably innovative.

‘Business Casual’ is a pitch perfect recollection of the synth-heavy beats, sauve lyrical delivery, pop nostalga, and playful party music that Chromeo is already known to produce. This ‘Fancy Footwork’ encore may appeal to some fans looking for a 1980’s themed “knight in shining armor,” but for many listeners this record will push Chromeo’s love of retro pastiche to the absolute limits and quickly fall out of listening rotation.

Tags: Reviews, Album Reviews

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