A DANCE BAND RISESÂ… Way Out West is a dance music band. Think about how strange that concept is. And refreshing. You see, Way Out West is not a pop or rock band that occasionally creates a dance — or danceable — tune. They always do that. Nor is the group an R&B act that gets credited as a dance artist simply because they allow remixes of their slow or mid-tempo balladry. And now, with its third album, the original Way Out West men are no longer a behind-the-scenes dance act — "featuring Kirsty Hawkshaw" on one track, Tricia Lee Kelshall on another, and so forth. That overdone practice is an artistically inconsistent and ultimately disloyal pattern that’s hurting the genre, making it harder for even dance devotees to keep track of who’s who and what’s what.
After setting the course for the underground U.K. dance scene for nearly a decade, Way Out West founders Jody Wisternoff and Nick Warren have now moved on to appeal to the mainstream, adopting singer Omi as part of their crew and ever-so-slightly slowing down its beat barrage. Now they’re touring as a band — and not as DJs. They’ll appear on stage at Nation this Friday, November 19, with a drummer and a guitarist. This move has upset many diehard fans, and dismayed some critics, but pay them no mind. WOW (as we like to call them) has just released Don’t Look Now, a wonderful two-years-in-the-making album filled with fully loaded cinematic songs, each with its own storyline relayed through rollicking, often-unpredictable percussion, warm, romantic-period orchestral melodies and usually breathy, Sarah McLachlan-style languorous vocals. Brooding, building masterpieces such as "Fear" and "Killa,” in particular, do wonders to quell an Underworld fan’s growing impatience, waiting for that U.K. duo’s return.
Dance-pop is in serious need of new thoughts and ideas, and new-old approaches. Songs, people, dance music needs songs. And it needs personalities and identities even more. WOW, in its new calculated effort to be a band and break into the U.K. pop chart and gain mainstream appeal, is hopefully just the first of many dance personalities to comeÂ…
DANCE CHART ‘DIARY’ ENTRY NO. 1Â… Any week now WOW’s first single "Anything But You" should chart on the Billboard Club Play Chart. And we could go on and on about other tracks we hope will soon appear. (For the record, Jem’s "They" is highest on our list.) But at the moment it’s a pretty exciting chart as is. Alicia Keys sits on top, credited to Hani’s whirlwind remix of Keys’ "Diary" featuring Tony! Toni! Tone! Who’ll knock her off that perch? It could be Robbie Rivera, who’s at No. 3 with "Which Way You Going?" Newcomer Elliott John sings over a Coldplay-inspired, Information Society-sounding tune that is just one of many impressive tracks off Rivera’s debut artist album Do You Want MoreÂ…
WAITING FOR GWEN… We hope it’ll be Gwen Stefani‘s "What You Waiting For?" to top the chart next. Her debut solo album, Love, Angel, Music, Baby, drops next Tuesday, and we absolutely can’t wait to hear it. We could ramble on about the producers she worked with or the influences she cites for the album. But the best thing to say is what she told Billboard: "I was not looking to make an art record. I was looking to make a specific record that would be everyone’s guilty pleasure. There was no room for anything but singles on this album."
And the first single, in its original form, is fantastically alive. But the extended video is even better, and then there’s Stefani’s stellar choice of remixer, Jacques Lu Cont. That all alone earns her our unreserved esteem. Frenchie Lu Cont never fails to make you take notice of his unique style, whether he’s remixing The Faint or Madonna. With Stefani, he creates a manic ticking time-bomb of a neo-disco remix that alternates between warm and smooth house and cool and hard near-techno, the way of the best ’80s electro-popÂ…
RUPAUL LOOKS GOOD, FEELS BADÂ… Alicia Keys just pushed ahead of RuPaul to take the dance chart’s top spot, but she did it with such force that the dancing drag queen tumbles six spots to No. 8 with his signature-sounding "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous." You did know that Ru has a new album and single, right? Ru recently made a stink about garnering no serious mainstream press coverage for his self-released Red Hot. Little wonder though, since the album does little more than reconstitute the mid-90s "Back to My Roots" high-NRG sound that got Ru play in the first place — a sound now seriously out of date. Ru does factor in the occasional Destiny’s Child hip-hop number, and he sprinkles throughout uproarious short skits from the un-PC Shirley Q. Liquor. But for all his appeal, Ru is still largely a time-stamped novelty act for the masses. So settling for No. 2 on the dance chart as a comeback is nothing to get stinky-dinky about….
A ROCKSTAR LESBIAN DJ… She looks like a lesbian. She sounds like a lesbian. And she is, in fact, a lesbian. But few lesbian clubgoers, and even fewer gay male clubgoers, are familiar with DJ Irene. How’s that? Here’s how: DJ Irene only spins at straight clubs. While there are those DJs who spin in both straight and gay clubs — not to mention points in between — most stick to one and become unknown in the other. So it is that Irene can be “the No. 1 selling female DJ in America” and yet you likely remain oblivious. It’s not that she has no love for her fellow homosexuals, we’re sure. But just as true, for her as well as her fellow gay DJs who work the straight club scene, and her fellow straight DJs who work the gay club scene, it’s not that her chief concern is with breaking down barriers — even though she might tell you as much. No, Irene Gutierrez simply works where she’s wanted. She works where her particular brand of dance music finds a natural audience.
You only have to give her latest compilation, Rockstar, featuring many of her own compositions, five minutes to see what Irene’s brand of dance is. The disc opens with the sound of a motorcycle revving its engine. Once we’re cruising down the freeway, a blaring electric guitar enters the scene. And then we’re assaulted with all kinds of no-holds-barred, no-silence-spared sonics. DJ Irene doesn’t aspire to be just a rockstar — she wants to be a heavy-metal star. It’s techno gone mad — and bad-ass. And very Attention-Deficit Schizophrenic: more than a quarter of the 28 tracks clock in at less than two minutes.
It’s not hard to see why she’d find a fan base for her unique sound in the straight scene (especially its male half), and there’ll no doubt be a rowdy crowd at Nation this Friday, November 12, to hear her spin at the Cubik party (visit www.buzzlife.com)…
A DUTCH DEEP DISH… The next big thing in dance music — that is, of course, the next big DJ — just may be newcomer Sander Kleinenberg. Kleinenberg has slowly but surely made a name for himself the past couple years as a sensitive, sensual house music remixer. He’s just released his first compilation, the strangely named This Is Everybody Too, a double-disc affair that trades in the same chilled disco, grounded, progressive house style of his remixes — most prominently, Justin Timberlake‘s “Rock Your Body” and Janet Jackson‘s “All Nite (Don’t Stop).” He’s yet another Dutch DJ, but Kleinenberg sounds closer to D.C.’s own Deep Dish in approach than to the flowery, showery trance of compatriot Tiesto, the world’s biggest DJ. Deep Dish proves to be a hard act to follow, but Kleinenberg just might surpass the duo one day if he continues down the road of seamlessly blending tracks from various artists to sound as just one, consistently thought out song. He does this most impressively halfway through disc two, where he fashions a neo-Britpop “song” a la Franz Ferninand or Underworld, but without lyrics, for the most part.
As much as he may recall Deep Dish, Kleinenberg avoids including them on his compilation. But Irene does, sputtering her compilation to an end, as the guitar chords of Deep Dish’s “Flashdance” peter out. It’s a strange choice to close her compilation, and it’s a strange false note from the storied D.C. dance-production duo of Ali “Dubfire” Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi. The song, flash-fried in top-of-the-line disco grease, is an ode to the hit from the movie of the same name. The post-disco vibe of that era is there, but otherwise, it’s not as amazing as we’d expect. With lackluster vocals from newcomer Anousheh, an under-baked melody, and no real chorus, just a held guitar chord, it leaves us wanting. It’s not so bad that it quells our anticipation for the duo’s next artist album, its first in what will be more than six years. It’s due early next year. And D.C.’s own Richard Morel lent a producing hand and his appealing ominous voice to several tracks…
HEDWIG GETS ‘FILTHY’… It couldn’t be a better fit: Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s John Cameron Mitchell has directed a video of the Scissor Sisters’ “Filthy/Gorgeous,” the little ditty about Jake Shears‘ days as a go-go dancer. A sneak preview of the video was leaked online late last month — and then promptly removed. The video is set in an anything-goes nightclub, where the two gay Sisters (Shears and BabyDaddy) are seen, in effect, breast-feeding. No word when either the single or the video will be released. It probably won’t be before the turn of 2005 though, since the psychedelic ballad “Mary” was just released as single No. 3 taken from the Sisters’ self-titled debut, following “Take Your Mama” and “Laura”…
SOFT CELL SINGER RECOVERING… Soft Cell singer Marc Almond is recovering from his severe auto accident much better and quicker than expected. He’s no longer in the hospital, and a post to his Web site suggested he’s fully conscious despite his head injuries suffered after being thrown from a motorcycle into a busy London street. “We never imagined that after only three weeks we’d be sitting in a room drinking tea and laughing and joking with him just like before,” read the post…