The recent renaissance of disco-pop acts from the likes of The DFA to Italians Do It Better to even Ed Banger has been nothing if not encouraging. Yet with sticky summer air blowing in and the last of winter’s frost all but a fond memory, the iciness of Chromatics and the digital spazz-beat of Justice just don’t seem right for the occasion. Last year’s LCD Soundsystem single “All My Friends” would have done the trick, but this is 2008 dammit, and I’m not about to go recycling last year’s summer jam. Ah, but those on a similar mission as myself should be overjoyed that there’s yet another DFA classic this year, namely Hercules and Love Affair.
Having already been released in Europe earlier in the Spring, Hercules and Love Affair have no doubt already been queued on countless summertime, best of half-year and Gay Pride playlists. Thanks to Mute, however, the debut release from Andrew Butler’s new disco troupe is seeing the light of day in the United States. Featuring the likes of Antony Hegarty, Nomi and Kim Ann Foxworth on vocals, Tyler Pope (!!!, LCD Soundsystem, Out Hud) on bass and DFA main man Tim Goldsworthy on the production side, Hercules and Love Affair is a scantily clad conga line connecting The Hacienda and Studio 54. This isn’t just disco, this is disco, with a capital diva.
First single “Blind,” one of four in which Antony takes the mic, has already gyrated its way toward international acclaim, to the point that one Treble staffer got sufficiently tired of hearing it while in Italy. Suffice to say, that wasn’t me, because I’m nowhere near done with this jam; it throbs and pops, driven into a deep groove thanks to Tyler Pope’s great bassline. Part of me thinks that Pope is the secret weapon, his taut low end building a ballsy foundation for tracks such as this one and “Athene.” But Andrew Raposo is no slouch either, his deep bass backing “Hercules’ Theme,” “This Is My Love” and “Raise Me Up.”
What’s truly interesting is that, given the shifts between players and vocalists, even between ethereal sounds and dense, funky ones, Hercules and Love Affair seems to take on a life of its own, each track seamlessly transitioning and maintaining a continuity conducive to a solid dance party, and one with heart and soul to spare. “Time Will” opens the record on a subdued and emotional note, sounding a bit more like The Knife than Chic, pumping and flexing with its juxtaposition of acoustic guitar and bassy synths. “Hercules’ Theme” is a complete 180, giving into sensual funk, with disco strings and horns layered thick for maximum decadence. Yet Nomi’s drawn out “yeah, yeah, yeaaaahhhh” is what takes it over the top.
“You Belong” is something of an anomaly, pulsing farther toward house than any other track here, but in this case, such diversity is definitely a good thing. “Athene,” featuring Kim Ann Foxman on vocals, is something of a feminine counterpoint to the Hercules imagery, and equally awesome in its combination of deep funk and ethereal synthesizers. Foxman also takes the lead on “Iris,” one track where a comparison to Italians Do It Better’s Eurodisco wouldn’t be completely out of the question. Even Butler, himself, gets a chance to sing in “This Is My Love,” his low-key pipes a stark contrast to Antony or Nomi’s dramatic deliveries, but it pairs well with the dense, easy-going grooves and lush array of synth pleasures.
When millions of Americans dedicated to rock `n’ roll were burning disco albums when the ’70s came to a close, they likely had no idea that it would only be a temporary setback. Disco is alive and well and thriving in Hercules and Love Affair, a project that not only sounds impeccable, but organic as well. This album breathes and sighs, shakes and rolls, sweats and licks its lips. It’s such a fun, joyous and incredibly hot album that, without it, you might as well just forget about summer altogether.
Kathy Diamond – Miss Diamond To You
Glass Candy – B/E/A/T/B/O/X
LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem
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.