2018 Music Reviews

Album Review: De Lux ‘More Disco Songs About Love’

The duo of Sean Guerin and Isaac Franco, also known as De Lux, created one of the most instantly addictive songs of 2013 that you probably didn’t hear on the radio. “Better at Making Time” is a saucy slice of disco filtered through a 1980s pop sensibility. The song appeared on both their 2013 EP and their 2014 debut album, Voyage. Next, De Lux released Generation in 2015, an album which toned down some of the mania from the previous album but still retained the band’s quirky sound. With their latest, the cheekily titled More Disco Songs About Love, De Lux have refined their sound even further.

Opening track “875 Dollars” reveals that for a band who has been described “like they could have come out of 1979 or 1982 just as easily as the present,” De Lux’s style is far more distinctive than their retro-loving pop peers.

One thing that distinguishes the band is their penchant for contrasting lyrics with music. At times, this is so skillfully executed that it approaches Sparks levels of clever. “875 Dollars” makes one want to start dancing before it even hits the first verse. Yet the song details “the amount of rent Guerin would have to pay to keep his childhood home if his parents decided to move. And split it with three other friends.” It’s a poignant sentiment (“This is the house that I can see myself dying in”) paired with a seriously funky bass line.

It’s not just De Lux’s lyrics that delve into the unexpected. The mesmerizing, robotic “Keyboards ‘Cause We’re Black and White” unveils a simple, subtle chord progression about halfway through, followed by an instrumental break that totally invigorates an already terrific song. It fades into a simple synth-bass-vocal section at the end, revealing that great melodies are at the heart of what makes De Lux so special.

“These Are Some of the Things” is hypnotically catchy, showing that mixing minimalism with disco can result in something spectacular. Lyrics like “If you fight over text / you have all the evidence / you fight over the phone / you’re running in circles” are hilariously true, if uncomfortably so.

Similarly funny is “Writing Music for Money, to Write More Music.” Anyone who makes music in the shadows of mainstream fame will recognize themselves in lines like “Well maybe I should get a job / and work for an agency / ‘cause in case I write another song / and it doesn’t mean anything.” It’s as much a rallying cry for creativity as it is a call to get up and dance.

Perhaps the wittiest song on the album is “Music Snob” which is so dead on in its description of the titular character that you cringe while you laugh. “How do I know what you like / if you like just about everything?” feels like a social media argument gone terribly wrong, while “what you see as hate / I see as love misunderstood” would be painful if it weren’t so damn funny. For such a sardonic song, it certainly has an unexpectedly gorgeous bridge.

In an album full of hooky treats, “Cause for Concern” might be the most delightful. It opens with a chorus and a funk vibe by way of early Duran Duran, continually builds to a peak and then blossoms into something weirdly life-affirming: “This is the terrible truth / the one that doesn’t seem to fly / this is a cause for concern / one that begs you to dance for life.”

As original as De Lux is, they’re also skilled with metacritical gestures. There are two tracks with guest vocalists. One is the strange “Stratosphere Girl” with The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart. The other is the funky “Smarter Harder Darker” featuring Sal P. Could it be a response to Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”? The start-stop syncopation of “Guys Just Want to Have Pleasure” feels like an update to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” with an ode to BDSM (“spank me now, no wait / slow it down, ok”).

Sex gets another look in the appropriately titled “Poorn,” which opens with an alluring vocal line, slips in some slightly salacious lyrics and then ends with a shift in melody that evokes the aching quality of the best of late 70s soft rock. It also uses the word “homosape” as a verb, which I’m pretty sure is not a verb, but this is De Lux so I’ll gladly allow it.

De Lux excels at provoking a “what did he just sing?” curiosity while you’re moving back and forth to the beat. More Disco Songs About Love makes one giddy with pleasure, and it’s a feeling that just gets more intense the more you listen to it.

More Disco Songs About Love was released on January 19 by Innovative Leisure.

Leslie Hatton (@popshifter) is a Fannibal, an animal lover, a music maven and a horror movie junkie. She created and managed Popshifter from 2007 – 2017, and also contributes to Biff Bam Pop, Diabolique Magazine, Everything Is Scary, Modern Horrors, Rue Morgue and more.