Let us rewind just a few short years ago to the age of electroclash, thepop-sleaze genre that spawned artists as diverse as Fischerspooner,Scissor Sisters and Peaches, and recognise that Montreal-basedTiga was regarded as something of a god within the field.
He is best knownon these shores, for those who happen to be in the know (you can count yourcorrespondent here as one), for a highly kinetic remix of Nelly‘s HotIn Herre, featuring Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears on guest vocals,which remarkably turned the Alpha Male mysogyny of the original into acampy, disposable pop ditty, along with a heavily tongue-in-cheek version ofCorey Hart‘s 80′s anthem Sunglasses At Night.
After serving time as a producer/remixer for artists like Felix DaHousecat, Moby, LCD Soundsystem and Depeche Mode,Tiga, at long last, unleashes his debut album, Sexor, on a world whereelectroclash is yesterday’s news and the Top 40 reads like a list ofelectro/dance-influenced artists, from the disposable pop of RachelStevens to the angular disco-punk of Franz Ferdinand. Can Tigamake an album relevant to the field, or has he missed the boat?
Welcome To Sexor sets the album up as a concept album of sorts, unveilingSexor as a locale of sorts, a place “where imagination rules the nation and”where sexy lightning always strikes twice”. You know the kind of album youare in for when you hear these words.
The album features three unique cover versions, including a remarkablecover of Talking Heads‘ classic Burning Down The House, whichmanages to somehow replicate the nervous energy and sheer insanity of theoriginal without being too derivative. Tiga’s take on Nine InchNails‘ Down On It cleverly contrasts Trent Reznor’s anguished lyricswith Tiga’s poppy, lightweight vocal. His version of Public Enemy‘sLouder Than A Bomb is another joy and has to be heard to be believed. Itseems almost too tongue-in-cheek, too ironic to be true. The inciendaryimpact of the original is predictably minimalised due to the thin vocal,accompanied by disco-style bass and drums, klaxons and bomb explosions.
Pleasure From The Bass seems to borrow liberally and unashamedly fromGuns ‘n’ Roses‘ Welcome To The Jungle while mixing it with retro acidhouse, the result a bizarre but highly enjoyable, knowing journey into theearly 90′s. Tiga manages to take old styles (and, on his cover versions, oldsongs) and make them sound fresh, contemporary and as relevant as ever. Andthis is the joy of Sexor (ooo-err); you get the sense of Tiga’s love for allthings retro, from his cover versions to his resurrection of old styles,even the cover seems to pay homage to Bryan Ferry, looking almostidentical to the cover of Ferry’s under-rated 1977 album In Your Mind. Likethose amazing designers on the late, lamented Changing Rooms, Tiga is ableto take a bunch of old, discarded stuff from pop’s history, recycle it,stick a bit of MDF on it and make it something unique and ratherdazzling.
Jake Shears pops up again, this time on the delightful heavy-house of YouGonna Want Me, demonstrating that he is one of the most engaging and livelyvocalists of recent years. His novelty falsetto blends nicely with the deftmusicianship in the background and with Tiga’s own backing vocals, makingYou Gonna Want Me one of the album’s most sublime moments. Sexor has plentyof radio-friendly moments, such as the poppy Far From Home, while alsomanaging to dive into the bizarre, wacky and leftfield, as on the ode toVicki Vale (Kim Basinger in the first Batman movie), Who’s That. TheSoulwax-produced Good As Gold has poppy hooks a’plenty, making it oneof the most memorable cuts from Sexor, before it segues nicely into thebizarre insanity of Flexibleskulls, demonstrating the diversity on offerhere.
While much of the album has heavily ironic undertones, there are momentswhere you can remove your tongue from within your cheek. True, the slowernumbers make less of an impact than the more frenetic, dancefloor-orientedones, as the faster songs are where the camp, wit and fun tends to lie, butBrothers is an honest, earnest and thoughtful number and is one of Sexor’shighlights, with the unusual (for a ‘dance’ album, though we hate tocategorise) inclusion of gorgeous piano-driven melodies, coupled with someheavy basslines.
The synths are heavily (and predictably) influenced by the ’80s, and itis unfortunate that Tiga’s contribution comes at a time when it seems thatsome people are getting sick of the 80′s-inflected beats of a number ofacts, hence the noticable backlash against bandwagon jumpers like TheBravery and the ridicule by some critics of Fischerspooner,pointing to the band’s pretentiousness and sense of self-importance.
Tiga isinnocent of all this, making an album which, if anything, is morelightweight than self-important, but one must wonder why he waited so longinstead of seizing the zeitgeiest at a more opportune time, considering theinfluence and status he holds wthin the dance music community, and when youconsider that the once out-there stylings that seemed so weird and leftfieldhave been firmly brought into the mainstream by savvy culture-vultures likeMadonna.
You get the sense that had Sexor been released a couple of years earlierit would have been hailed as an important, crucial, genre-defining album.Tiga’s work in production and as a DJ ensures his place in the great historyof electroclash and its march into pop music, but the album screams ofmissed opportunities. When you consider that Pleasure From The Bass wasoriginally recorded in 2002, you understand that Tiga has, to a degree,missed the boat.
It is also very much an album by a scenester for scenesters, for hipstersin skinny jeans and visors who dance ‘ironically’ to ’80s music, but don’tlet the pretention of Tiga’s target audience put you off from a thoroughlyenjoyable pop album that mines the best of pop’s forgotten past. Sexor, theland of the ‘sexy lightning’, sure sounds like a fun place to party.