Let us rewind just a few short years ago to the age of electroclash, the pop-sleaze genre that spawned artists as diverse as Fischerspooner, Scissor Sisters and Peaches, and recognise that Montreal-based Tiga was regarded as something of a god within the field.
He is best known on these shores, for those who happen to be in the know, for a highly kinetic remix of Nelly‘s Hot In Herre, featuring Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears on guest vocals, which remarkably turned the Alpha Male mysogyny of the original into a campy, disposable pop ditty, along with a heavily tongue-in-cheek version of Corey Hart‘s ’80s anthem Sunglasses At Night.
After serving time as a producer/remixer for artists like Felix Da Housecat, Moby, LCD Soundsystem and Depeche Mode, Tiga, at long last, unleashes his debut album, Sexor, on a world where electroclash is yesterday’s news and the Top 40 reads like a list of electro/dance-influenced artists, from the disposable pop of Rachel Stevens to the angular disco-punk of Franz Ferdinand. Can Tiga make 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, unveiling Sexor 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 you are in for when you hear these words.
The album features three unique cover versions, including a remarkable cover of Talking Heads‘ classic Burning Down The House, which manages to somehow replicate the nervous energy and sheer insanity of the original without being too derivative. Tiga’s take on Nine Inch Nails‘ Down On It cleverly contrasts Trent Reznor’s anguished lyrics with Tiga’s poppy, lightweight vocal. His version of Public Enemy‘s Louder Than A Bomb is another joy and has to be heard to be believed. It seems almost too tongue-in-cheek, too ironic to be true. The incendiary impact 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 from Guns ‘n’ Roses‘ Welcome To The Jungle while mixing it with retro acid house, the result a bizarre but highly enjoyable, knowing journey into the early 90’s. Tiga manages to take old styles (and, on his cover versions, old songs) and make them sound fresh, contemporary and as relevant as ever. And this is the joy of Sexor (ooo-err); you get the sense of Tiga’s love for all things retro, from his cover versions to his resurrection of old styles, even the cover seems to pay homage to Bryan Ferry, looking almost identical to the cover of the Roxy Music man’s under-rated 1977 album In Your Mind. Like those amazing designers on the late, lamented Changing Rooms, Tiga is able to 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 rather dazzling.
Shears pops up again, this time on the delightful heavy-house of You Gonna Want Me, demonstrating that he is one of the most engaging and lively vocalists of recent years. His novelty falsetto blends nicely with the deft musicianship in the background and with Tiga’s own backing vocals, making You Gonna Want Me one of the album’s most sublime moments. Sexor has plenty of radio-friendly moments, such as the poppy Far From Home, while also managing to dive into the bizarre, wacky and leftfield, as on the ode to Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger in the first Batman movie), Who’s That. The Soulwax-produced Good As Gold has poppy hooks a’plenty, making it one of the most memorable cuts from Sexor, before it segues nicely into the bizarre insanity of Flexibleskulls, demonstrating the diversity on offer here.
While much of the album has heavily ironic undertones, there are moments where you can remove your tongue from within your cheek. True, the slower numbers make less of an impact than the more frenetic, dancefloor-oriented ones, as the faster songs are where the camp, wit and fun tends to lie, but Brothers is an honest, earnest and thoughtful number and is one of Sexor’s highlights, with the unusual (for a ‘dance’ album, though we hate to categorise) inclusion of gorgeous piano-driven melodies, coupled with some heavy basslines.
The synths are heavily (and predictably) influenced by the ’80s, and it is unfortunate that Tiga’s contribution comes at a time when it seems that some people are getting sick of the ’80s-inflected beats of a number of acts, hence the noticeable backlash against bandwagon jumpers like The Bravery and the ridicule by some critics of Fischerspooner, pointing to the band’s pretentiousness and sense of self-importance.
Tiga is innocent of all this, making an album which, if anything, is more lightweight than self-important, but one must wonder why he waited so long instead of seizing the zeitgeiest at a more opportune time, considering the influence and status he holds wthin the dance music community, and when you consider that the once out-there stylings that seemed so weird and leftfield have been firmly brought into the mainstream by savvy culture-vultures like Madonna.
You get the sense that had Sexor been released a couple of years earlier it 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 history of electroclash and its march into pop music, but the album screams of missed opportunities. When you consider that Pleasure From The Bass was originally 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 hipsters in skinny jeans and visors who dance ‘ironically’ to ’80s music, but don’t let the pretention of Tiga’s target audience put you off from a thoroughly enjoyable pop album that mines the best of pop’s forgotten past. Sexor, the land of the ‘sexy lightning’, sure sounds like a fun place to party.