After a gap of seven years, Cerrone returns with a veritable collaboration-fest. There are enough guest musicians and vocalists on Red Lips to put together another Live Aid with half of them still locked outside. That’s not to say there are any massively surprising sounds. The dronecore years may still be some way off for the superannuated French disco-king, as things stick resolutely to the shinier side of the dancefloor. And shiny they are. There’s less of the flat out bonkers – but great – experimentation that featured on ‘Supernature‘ and a touch more, a touch more…mainstream sounds, shall we say. That’s a polite way of saying that, whilst this album is not without its attractions, it veers perilously close to Jamiroquai but less racy. A troubling concept.
Born of Italian immigrants, Marc Cerrone has certainly had an out there career. You don’t sell 30 million records and stick on rock operas for over 800,000 people in Tokyo harbour without having something about you. Not that success necessitates talent but there have been enough spikes along the road to show there is plenty. Which is perhaps the disappointment with Red Lips. Whilst a squelchy groover like ‘Ain’t No Party (Like Monday Night)’ [featuring Kiezsa] bumps along agreeably, it’s frighteningly normal. In fact, that’s the only thing in the least alarming about this record; its normality. Easy enough to nod along to, get you in the mood to go out on a Saturday. But, your mum will like it.
The beats are fine enough, but, for all that, you get a vocal from James Hart on vaguely anodyne opener ‘Therapy‘ that simply sounds like a Poundland Michael Jackson. That sort of therapy is the wrong kind of shock. There’s a polish that extends right across proceedings, which somehow takes the heart out of things. Music for a glossy video and played in the sort of bar you do not want to attend.
Out of all the featured artists, Wallace Turrell and Chelcee Grimes perhaps provide some of the greatest success. The former delivers a slightly too sleek but effective vocal on the Prince-ish, titular ‘Red Lips‘. Reminscent of Prince drained of most all lascivious danger anyway. The latter chirps along to ‘I Want‘, albeit sounding like the aforementioned Mr Jackson’s sister, Janet. One to keep her bereft fans happy, perhaps.
Billed as a celebration of disco’s halcyon days, Red Lips is nothing of the sort. Not unless it’s a eulogy to the watered-down kind that might have soundtracked a be-flared demonstration on Saturday morning kid’s television. Where is the darkness or simply light and shade? The innovation or simply the thrill that a thumping bass drum should provide? An anomaly, ‘2nd Chance‘ featuring Tony Allen at least has some raucous drums frolicking about but it’s an island in a sea of ho hum.
The album’s undoubted highpoint is ‘Steal Your Love‘ with Hot Chip‘s Alexis Taylor. That is because, underneath the characteristically wry edge, there is an effervecent joy. How one wishes the other tracks had explored this route. It may sound classic, it may not be anything new, but there’s a joie de vivre wholly lacking elsewhere. The simple pleasures mark aimed for on other tracks is body-swerved and missed by a mile in favour of, well, just a rather empty experience. Over-produced and under-powered, the whole affair reeks of a load of cash. Cash that could have been put to equal use being tossed in the bin.
Sometimes the sum can be considerably less than the parts. Shame
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