Looking back at the disco backlash in the late ’70s, it’s hard to understand why a relatively harmless form of dance music could really infuriate so many Americans. Then again, I’m not exactly sure why arugula has become such an object of outrage in 2008, but I digress. Regardless of how fleeting and trivial the backlash was, it was a safe bet to say that it wouldn’t be able to last forever. And, truth be told, disco did, for the most part, live on, if only in different forms. In the ’00s, however, a classicist sort of approach to disco music has exhaled a mighty breath of new life into a genre that, up until recently, had been mostly a relic. The DFA is partially to thank for that, but even more so, Italians Do It Better, helmed by flagship band Glass Candy, is giving disco its much-belated due.
Glass Candy’s take on disco on their excellent new album B/E/A/T/B/O/X is one that combines the airy club sounds of ’80s Italo-disco, Chic-like funk, the edge and sass of Blondie and the analog bleeps of early electro (even to the point of including a cover of Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love”). Ida No and Johnny Jewel, the duo that make up Glass Candy, have a bit more playful take on dance music than their darker and more ethereal labelmates Chromatics, yet the two groups have more in common than they do disparities, thanks in large part to Jewel’s presence in both bands. Yet Glass Candy’s ecstatic urgency is a bit more up front, so much that the album’s first track is a humorous exercise/hype track to get the party people in the groove.
In the first actual song, “Beatific,” Jewel lays out a sexy, throbbing bassline, with contrasting ethereal synths beneath No’s sultry chirp of “people’s rules and what they do are often different things.” “Candy Castle” is a particularly stunning jam, built on a meaty horn-driven hook and hard-hitting mid-tempo beats, as well as No’s punctuated cries of “c’mon, c’mon!” The crackly samples of “Rolling Down the Hills” make it yet another amazing dance anthem, with sweeping strings and a loop of old-school funk guitar. And yet, Jewel doesn’t hesitate to turn the Kraftwerk-like synth magic all the way up on the six-minute “Life After Sundown.”
Though B/E/A/T/B/O/X isn’t by any means too short, its 8-song tracklisting most certainly leaves the listener wanting more of its sexy beats and grooves. With a hot dance sensibility and hooks for days, Glass Candy proves that when it comes to disco, Portlanders do it better.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.