People tend to forget that rock and roll was, is and forever shall be `dance music.’ What that means is music shouldn’t have to be backed by that incessant `unhts-uhnts’ to be considered something to which you can move your body, no matter how awkward you might look. Soulwax, aka 2 Many DJ’s, whom some would argue are the progenitors of the `mash-up,’ remind us of that fact on Nite Versions, the duo’s latest album. Chiefly inspired by both Human League, whose Love and Dancing was an entire album of 12″ versions of the songs from Dare, and Duran Duran, whose “Night Versions” of their various hit singles were meant strictly for the dance clubs. Before there was `house’ or `jungle’ or the rest of the monotonous litany of dance subgenres, there was the `remix,’ and rock artists from Adam Ant to Billy Idol benefited from its usage. Of course, for DJ’s and `dance’ artists, this is nothing new, but Soulwax reach back into our collective memory of the days when the remix wasn’t just a given, it was something rare and precious, a gift for those devoted fans who just needed to have every release.
Daft Punk is playing at my house….sort of. The first track of Soulwax’s new album is essentially a Daft Punk track with different lyrics. In Daft Punk’s version of “Teachers,” the French duo rattles off a list of electro-pioneers and heroes, whereas Soulwax’s remix looks to the rock world for its idols. The rock has always informed Soulwax’s tunes, whether in their Iggy Pop meets Salt n’ Pepa mash-up that made Nick Hornby’s Songbook, or in the wailing guitar of the second track, “Miserable Girl.” Soulwax manage to avoid the trips and traps of the commonplace remix or “Night Version,” remaining as true to rock music as they do to modern day `dance music.’ In fact, their intention was to make a collection of dance mixes that could be played both in clubs, and in large arenas.
Nite Versions is not about mash-ups, save for a scant few tracks, and even those are debatable on the classification. For Soulwax, I imagine that a little piece of them died when Linkin Park and Jay-Z got each other’s chocolate in their respective peanut butter. Instead, their new album is a remixed version of their previous album, Any Minute Now. Much like Bloc Party, Björk and Death From Above 1979, Soulwax has taken on the `Remix Album.’ Unlike, those listed, Soulwax handle their own remix duties, rather than hand over the reins to backseat drivers who tend to know what would make their songs `better.’ Recently, it seems as though artists have been taking egregious liberties with other people’s songs. Remixes resemble the original in name only, otherwise becoming completely unrecognizable from its original version. Not so with Soulwax who bring back the old idea of the “Version” and update it for a new generation.
One such gem is “NY Lipps,” the one song that could be debated as being a mash-up. It takes their track, “NY Excuse,” and the old Lipps, Inc. song, “Funkytown,” out of the disco and puts it into the modern day `dance party for one,’ the iPod. And yes, somehow Soulwax manages to extract the cheese factor from one of Homer Simpson’s favorite tracks. Throw in the huge club hit “E Talking” and their collaboration with DFA, “Another Excuse,” and you have one stellar all night party. Soulwax haven’t entirely given up on pushing the boundaries of the dance genre, I hope, but instead have taken a brief pause with Nite Versions, an audio love letter to the 12″ remix.
The Human League- Love and Dancing
Duran Duran- The Singles 81-85 Box Set
New Order- Substance