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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Nile Rodgers: B-Movie Matinee


1) Plan-9; 2) State Your Mind; 3) The Face In The Window; 4) Doll Squad; 5) Let's Go Out Tonight; 6) Groove Master; 7) Wavelength; 8) Stay Out Of The Light.

General verdict: Funny electronic grooves, but bring back that guitar, goddammit.

For his second album, Nile chose Alfa Anderson instead of Bernard for his resident «memory of Chic» — bass credits go to Jimmy Bralower, a hot Eighties jack-of-all-trades known not so much for his guitar, bass, and drum playing as he was for his production and electronic programming. As you can understand, there is not much by way of impressive bass playing to be found on the album. Instead, there is a very glossy, synthetic sound, occasionally warmed up by Nile's color­ful licks — but overall, quite robotic; think Duran Duran with a slightly funkier edge.

Nevertheless, Rodgers lost neither his sense of humor nor his knack for delightfully lowbrow entertainment, and even if he is not playing to his usual high standards, he almost makes up for this with the fun quotient. The title of the record is not arbitrary: it is actually a semi-conceptual piece, stuffed with memories of and impressions from various cheesy B-movies, as if telling us not to take the music too seriously, either. Titles like ʽPlan-9ʼ and ʽDoll Squadʼ are self-explana­tory; others take attention to understand, like ʽStay Out Of The Lightʼ, filled with samples from Raiders Of The Lost Ark, even though the main content seems to be unrelated (not that I cared to follow the lyrics too closely, you understand). It all fits in kind of nicely into the general hedo­nism and entertainment spiral of the mid-Eighties, but always in a light, inoffensive, mildly funny way: Nile Rodgers is, after all, a nice and polite fellow whose career still peaked in the suit-wearing age, so he ain't going to pull no Alice Cooper or Mötley Crüe shit on you.

The only track to reach the single charts was ʽLet's Go Out Tonightʼ, which could thematically be the B-side to Madonna's ʽInto The Grooveʼ — a simple, unadorned dance-pop number with one synth bass line, one synth keyboard hook, one vocal earworm, and some Japanese vocal samples that modern audiences will probably love even more. Predictably, my interest only perks here when Nile begins to replay the hook on his guitar, at first strictly limiting himself to repeating a single phrase, then, towards the end, finally getting tired of it and launching into some inspired variations... that is, before they fade him out way too early (people are here to dance, goddammit, not to listen to creative guitar playing). Unfortunately, I wouldn't mind if they let him stretch out somewhere else, but that charmingly optimistic ringing guitar riff is about as much as you are getting from Nile Rodgers, the master of funky melody, on this album. So I do mind.

Still, it would be unfair to bypass the fact that there are some nifty grooves on the record — sometimes with a strong futuristic touch, e. g. ʽGroove Masterʼ (where Nile is going all mecha­nistic-robotic-Kraftwerkish on our asses), or ʽThe Face In The Windowʼ, whose interchange of dark and threatening electronic pulse in the verse with the pure and shiny dance groove in the chorus sounds almost frighteningly modern (all those purveyors of Eighties' nostalgia who some­times think they are expanding on what their forefathers taught them are way too often just repeating the achievements of tracks like this). Nothing really stands out in particular, and then there is always the occasional boring ballad like ʽWavelengthʼ, but on the whole, the grooves show a certain level of complexity and involvement — and when you combine, say, the not-so-trivial interlocking of bass, keyboards, guitar, percussion, and backing vocals on ʽDoll Squadʼ with the inherent light-hearted humor, you get a track that can cozily rally itself under the Prince banner and carried out of the burning house of Eighties' dance-pop as a good example of why it actually mattered as a creative force. To some small degree, at least.

It makes even more sense when you think about the relative artistic disasters Nile was producing for white guys at the time — Jeff Beck's Flash, Mick Jagger's She's The Boss — and just goes to show how important it is not to take yourself too seriously when you are investing in overtly commercial projects. Somehow, of these three projects, B-Movie Matinee is the only one where my own emotional response has been positive rather than negative. Still, it does not change the fact that my overall involvement in any Nile Rodgers project is proportionally dependent on the amount and quality of his guitar playing, and in that respect, B-Movie Matinee disappoints. In contexts like these, having a bigger ego couldn't actually hurt, Mr. Rodgers.


  1. You missed Bernard Edwards solo album from 1983, 'Glad To Be Here', also with Nile & Chic alumni.

  2. is it me or has George been using profanity and curse words much more in the past few months? Hope everything is alright George.