Tom Tom Club - Genius Of Live

Tom Tom Club truly succeeded in crafting a sound identity.

The difference between a recorded track and a live track resides in the intimacy. You’re in a recording studio, no one’s there to hear you fuck up: you can do it over and over again (time permitting, of course). The ‘do-over’, that quest for “getting it just right”, will in time be ultimately rewarding. When you’re playing to a crowd of people you don’t know though, well you can’t fuck up. Those rave and rewarding reviews you got for all the hard work you put into your record can be forgotten if you don’t do it right live.

So is this to say that a live show lacks entirely in intimacy? Well that all depends on the band doesn’t it? The intimacy of space is transformed, internalised in favour of the intimacy of minds. Okay, maybe that sounds lame, but it’s really important. A group of musicians who can communicate by a look, or the way they play, tilt their instrument, or any other weirdo sign known only to them, that’s a real intimate band. And a real good collective of musicians.

Tom Tom Club released their eponymous debut exactly thirty years ago (Shit! The 80s were thirty years ago?!) and its unique sound stands relevant today. Their impressive mix of early day rap, afrobeat and funk made for an innovative record, a new sound, something so fresh… Their signing to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records must only be deemed a match made in heaven: his Compass Point studios in the Bahamas provided the perfect setting for Frantz and Weymouth’s wonderful production. ‘Genius Of Love’ and ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ remain to date two of the most incredible pop songs ever made; instantly recognisable, Tom Tom Club truly succeeded in crafting a sound identity.

In 2001, Frantz and Weymouth got a gang together and put on a small show in their home studio, the Club House. ‘Genius Of Live’ is on the one hand a resurrection of this live gig recording (originally released in 2003 as ‘Live At The Club House’), but on the other, it offers some new innovation in the form of a second disc of remixes.

A live album is a tough one to nail. It’s gotta sound different to the record, all the while retaining some raw quality. And the best thing is, well, the Club House recordings do just that. The fact of the matter is, the band’s debut was a true feat of masterful originality, and this only becomes more evident on listening to the live versions of the songs. It’s hard not to smile, feel all warm and fuzzy when, at the end, Frantz and Weymouth introduce one another:

“The queen of all bass players… Tina Weymouth!”

“Stick around the party’s not over yet…”

It sure ain’t, Chris. ‘Genius Of Live’ is a two part affair, and disc two sure does bring the party. With remixes ranging from dub to afrobeat to electro, the sheer diversity of the original track is only further apparent. While this is all very positive, there is some discomfort in listening to the same song over and over again. Okay sure, it’s been tweaked and re-tweaked, stretched this way and that, but it ultimately remains the same song. A collection of remixes of various tunes might have been a little less harrowing… I suppose the second disc could be used for DJing… You know, drop in the occasional killer remix… done by someone that isn’t the Field or James Blake.

Tags: Tom Tom Club, Reviews, Album Reviews

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