Disco is back in vogue, as if we didn’t know, from Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers’ rewiring last year to this year’s We Got A Love by Shit Robot. The less-than-flattering moniker is the mask which Marcus Lambkin hides behind, and he has been actively spinning mirrorball music since his 2010 album From The Cradle To The Rave.
Bonding with LCD Soundsystem’s head honcho James Murphy and releasing on his DFA label cements a shared love of clunky, funky disco with a punky edge, one that guarantees you’re never far from a cow-bell interlude. But while Murphy explored the angst and irreverent side of disco influences, Shit Robot go for an all-out sweaty embrace with the disco beast.
Do It Right enquires if you know “how to jack your body”, something not mentioned in polite company since Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley in 1987, and is quite shameless in bathing in the sounds (clipped cymbals, melodic synth stabs) of the era without a hint of irony.
The smear of dirty electro disco is all over We Got A Love. Sounds are taken, switched, warped and pushed until the distorted repetitive bleep bubbles burst. The Secret maps out the template with a slowly repeating loop melody that’s added to by a chunky bass, some grounding beats, and a sprinkle of treated and sampled vocals that zoom in from all angles. It could be great, building up a pared-down sound into a kaleidoscopic collage, but it sounds like throwing too many ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks.
From here on in the album divides into two distinct camps – the humdrum instrumental workouts and the vocal hotspots. Weighing in as an exercise in musical tedium is the frankly underwhelming Dingbat, that plods along screaming ‘filler’ from its ahuffling grubby trainers to its tuneless head. Space Race isn’t quite a complete shambles, tipping its spangled fedora to the moog-tastic work of Jean Jacques Perrey before getting its circuits crossed in the bleeps and beats. Tempest has a stab at getting lo-frequency and percussive in its meanderings, but doesn’t hold the attention.
On the plus side, when it works on the vocal tracks, as on Feels Real, it sounds like a Scissor Sisters track replete with hysteric-a-go-go vocals courtesy of JENR (aka Luke Jenner of The Rapture). It’s a lot more successful, if derivative. The classic rave piano stabs and spiralling vocals on title track We Got A Love (featuring the sweet soul sensation that is Reggie Watts) are an uplifting slice when this Robot definitely doesn’t sound Shit. Feels Like Heaven with vocals from Holly Blackler has the essence of Inner City’s classic Good Life, which is no bad thing. Do That Dance is a disco-lite track with traffic cop whistles and gleeful hollers from Nancy Whang from LCD Soundsystem.
Shit Robot have here served up a homage to the music they love, but they haven’t really made it their own. There’s a nagging sense of the need to develop things further and mesh the mechanics with the human to create a beast that is more than the sum of its parts.