Compiling tracks from several EPs released in the span of one year, this long-overdue reissue on Eskimo Recordings handily inserts Allez-Allez’s brand of silvery, dubbed-out dance rock into the canon of revered early-’80s postpunk-party acts that decades later bred groups like the Rapture and !!!.
The first track here, “African Queen,” supposedly a tribute to Grace Jones and a gold hit for the band, has a terrifically controlled slow-mo groove that’s simultaneously smooth and angular. Imagine if one day in July the girls in ESG left the south Bronx and spent the day eating ice cream in the Hamptons. Although complete with some African-sounding vocal mumblings, it is a bit of a ministrel show for a group of several Belgians fronted by an American, and a highly effective one, in part because the steely Siouxsie-style warble of the group’s original singer, Sarah Osborne, neatly counterbalances the song’s Balearic drift.
The full-on new-wave dance party starts on the second track: the group’s eponymous flagship jam, a serious burner with a deep loping bass line and rollicking groove. Right away it’s clear that what distinguishes Allez-Allez from contemporaries like ESG and Liquid Liquid, among many others, is their emphasis on the extended jam. None of the tracks featured here are particularly long, but the loose, improvised jam-band feel allows the groove plenty of room to dominate and evolve in the course of four or so minutes.
Vocals are limited to athletic group chant choruses, or otherwise handed over to Obsorne, who lets out great energetic yelps but never anything of substance — it’s all throwaway provocations and on-the-fly coos. In “She’s Stirring Up,” she relies on the kind of stream-of-consciousness schoolyard made popular by Tom Tom Club on, for example, “Wordy Rappinghood.”
For the most part, the eight original tracks here mine a very specific stylistic vein — a stiff, skeletal white funk that is perhaps more echoey and dense than its American or U.K. counterparts, veering off only into some unpleasant disco string territory on “Flesh & Blood,” and into the misfire “Valley of Kings,” which breaks with the dance formula by slowing it up and trying unsuccessfully to cram the band’s storm of rhythm into the bottle of a song.
All this space and rhythm makes these tracks DJ dream material, as if you took the break from Remain in Light-era Talking Heads and unspoiled it into a sweaty, hypnotic dub workout. Thus it’s quite fitting and a great treat to have the disc filled out with four bonus remixes by some of the A-listers in contemporary leftfield disco: Quiet Village, Aeroplane, Optimo and Lindstrom (a far better idea than adding the group’s later flop, Boom Boom). Aeroplane’s and Optimo’s contributions are fairly straightforward, adding an airy synth here, an electro kick-drum there, at most touching up the tracks for contemporary ears.
Quiet Village and Lindstrom’s, on the other hand, are far-out enough to be just as worth the purchase price as the original songs are: Quiet Village strips “African Queen” down to its barest bones, zooming in on a few particular instances and allowing them to melt out into a Saharan haze, and Lindstrom & Prins Thomas rewire the title track into a tightly wound 12-minute fire breather. Both tracks are some of the best work either artist has done outside their own releases. Combined with the handful of gems now made available here, they make an essential listen for any dance-rock or out-disco enthusiast.