Album Reviews

Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Live

(Because) UK release date: 7 February 2011


Eight years have passed since the last Tom Tom Club release – and that was a live album. To compound this frustration, the timeline on the duo’s website ends with a tease at 2003, with the entry “Chris and Tina are making plans for the future”.

Those plans, it appears, are still in the making, even as Frantz and Weymouth celebrate their 30th anniversary. Yet even off the back of one record, the band that began as a Talking Heads project rightly hold a place as one of the most influential funk acts of their time, true innovators of rhythm. That album showed their music to be incredibly versatile as well as being difficult to pigeon hole, and was given the deluxe reissue treatment by Universal last year. Tracks from it such as Wordy Rappinghood and Genius Of Love still enjoy regular air time, and sound great in the clubs, whether on their own or in sampled form.

And yet there is little sign of anything new appearing to complement them. Genius Of Live is, to all intents and purposes, a crossbreed of reissue and remix album, a sign of inactivity elsewhere. It’s doubtful that anybody owning the highly enjoyable Live At The Clubhouse, that previous release from 2002, will want to buy an abridged version of the same record, to which is stapled an extra CD with no fewer than eleven remixes of Genius Of Love.

This track, their calling card, has been sampled by more artists than you or I have had hot dinners. The track that underpins Mariah Carey‘s Fantasy and countless others has a remarkably long shelf life, and is perhaps predictably one of the best things on Live At The Clubhouse. Wordy Rappinghood is, mind you, even better, with plenty of energy and some brilliant percussion. She’s Dangerous trips along, while Punk Lolita has some fabulously weird keyboard and guitar work. The atmosphere is infectiously feel good, with what crowd noise there is transmitting a party vibe.

The remixes are surprisingly varied, but fail to shift the stopgap notion. DJ Bitman‘s chirpy light dub and Money Mark‘s odd turn of blending FM radio pop and off kilter sounds show how Genius Of Love can respond to alternative treatments, while Pinker Tones‘ harder edged electro works well. Frantz and Weymouth are apparently working with some of these acts in a Latin-influenced piece of work that may or may not be under the Tom Tom Club moniker.

It is to be hoped those artists include Monareta, who possess a smooth but irresistibly funky line in rhythm to go with their slightly chaotic noise above, or the madcap Mexican Institute Of Sound, who instigates mayhem with his sped up mix.

Yet this release remains for diehard fans only, with no original material from the duo themselves. The live CD is highly enjoyable but is pieced together in a different order, while even the keenest ear tires of the riff to Genius Of Love on the eleventh listen. Innovators the Tom Tom Club may be, but they deserve more reverential treatment on record.


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