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Friday, April 6, 2018

Chic: Tongue In Chic


1) Hangin'; 2) I Feel Your Love Comin' On; 3) When You Love Someone; 4) Chic (Everybody Say); 5) Hey Fool; 6) Sharing Love; 7) City Lights.

General verdict: More decent electrofunk grooves that do not play to the band's biggest strengths.

Continuing the by-then unstoppable slide into irrelevancy, the blatantly awfully titled Tongue In Chic stalled at #173 on the US charts and at #47 on the R&B charts — too bad, because the lead single, ʽHangin'ʼ, was actually one of the band's best grooves in the post-disco era. With a slight whiff of menace rather than one of sentimentality, it is sternly ruled by an amusingly «popping» funky rhythm track from Nile, and brings back the atmosphere of friendly swag that was sorely lacking on ʽStage Frightʼ. It's still not on the level of ʽLe Freakʼ (with disco in the dumps, nothing could ever be, though), and they probably should have the leading ladies do the vocals instead of Bernard, but the guitar/brass interplay is cool, especially when Nile comes in with that little squeaky-pitched jazzy solo at the end.

After that, though, it is very much a case of one's general attitude towards generic dance music of the early Eighties. Depending on that, ʽI Feel Your Love Comin' Onʼ may seem to be a forget­table piece of dancefloor fodder, or a curious exploration of the possibilities of the synthesizer in introducing that robot strain to traditional African-American dance patterns. Years earlier, I would probably have hated Bernard's synthetic bass sound on this one, but now I am able to appreciate its calculated cool — at the same time, every time I go back in my mind to Chic's first albums, it is hard to get rid of the feeling that they have pretty much traded in the joyful, life-asserting extravagance of their early dance tracks for the common exaggerated android futurism of the Eighties, which sort of puts synthetic implants in your bloodstream rather than organic stimulators. But hey, to each his own.

Elsewhere, there is a very dubious attempt to blend in with the hip-hop crowd (rapping on the pseudo-live ʽChic (Everybody Say)ʼ — along with nice orchestral swirls, but overall, probably their weakest self-referential composition); some Luther Vandrossian sleazy swill (ʽSharing Loveʼ — this bland and instrumentally unappealing piece could have come from the hands of any of the million R&B outfits existing in 1982); some okay balladry (I like the tense, insisting, near-epic bass riff of ʽWhen You Love Someoneʼ, and Alfa Anderson's vocal performance is some­what touching, but on the whole, it's just a ballad like so many others); and a fun closing instru­mental (ʽCity Lightsʼ) that will be highly appreciated by all fans of our favorite bass/guitar combo, but does not have a particularly strong hook to go down in history as a classic.

In short, the problems that they had to deal with on Take It Off persist and turn out to be insur­mountable — in this new age of musical and spiritual values, Chic simply cannot allow them­selves to let their hair down enough to attract a new generation of listeners; and their greatest strength, instrumental virtuosity, has to be (partially) sacrificed again in order to adapt to this new age. As far as taking a retrospective look at this stuff is concerned, I'd still rather listen to this kind of music than anything by Bruno Mars, for instance, but the real choice is not between early Eighties Chic and retro-style 2010s R&B, it is between early Eighties Chic and early Eighties Prince and Michael Jackson, or even Madonna, and there can be no debate here about which one remains more exciting to ears that have evolved past 2000. 

1 comment:

  1. It is time to re-visit Bee Gees again (just finished reading your old blog reviews of their records). Fascinating band and so underrated.