There are, of course, two kinds of pop music. There is popular music, the sugary vapor that floats in and out of fashion within months, only occasionally bringing up enough talent or musical uniqueness from the bubbling underground to make it notable. And then there is pop as a genre, perfectly crafted two- or three-minute works by groups like the Beach Boys, the Cars or, more recently, Beulah. Both are primarily created for people to move to, but neither is particularly invested in the dance scene. Which is ironic because dance producers, from Sasha to Kid 606, just love pop music.
Felix Da Housecat, aka Felix Stallings Jr., a veteran of the house music scene for nearly twenty years (he got started at about age 15 in Chicago), takes his cues from both sections of pop; Devin Dazzle and the Neon Fever situates itself somewhere in the middle. This can be a winning strategy when you’re making dance music — the temporality of bubblegum plays well with the stellar arrangements of pop when it’s applied to four-on-the-floor party beats — but it’s always dangerous to flaunt your lack of seriousness.
The album is regrettably front-loaded; opener “Rocket Ride,” with its pop-punk guitars and chant-along chorus, is the best song here. But “What She Wants” might be the most successful example of pure silliness succeeding. James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem and DFA Records) stutters and vibrates “I wish I’d never stopped starting with you” over a slithering bass line and some splashing drum loops. The song seems like a parody of some long lost eighties band, but the recklessness that everyone associated with the song has thrown themselves into it is contagious. Before long the beat catches hold, and it’s to difficult care whether or not it’s derivative.
“Short Skirts” and “Let Your Mind Be Your Bed” yield similar results, with their speak-singing that resembles a good portion of Felix’s last record, 2001’s Kitten and Thee Glitz, which featured Miss Kittin. This is one of the few similarities between the two records. It’s clearly a response to the fading electroclash movement that the earlier work spawned (Felix is said to have never been keen on it in the first place). Even more disposable songs pop up along the way: “Everyone is Someone in L.A.” is so tongue in cheek that it sounds like a show tune gone club jam, and it collapses under its own clunky premise. “Devin Dazzle Theme” brings an uncomfortable amount of deep house to the proceedings.
Jaxx’s Rooty. Unfortunately, that album came out three years ago, and if you listened to both albums together, you wouldn’t think much had changed during that time. Devin Dazzle is a little flashier, with a little bit more eighties and a little less funk. Rooty has moments that are inspired and unique, and the primary difference between this record and almost every other record of its kind is that it has no illusions of leading any trend or being progressive musically.
Felix Da Housecat and his various singers and co-producers have made something completely devoid of pomp and exclusively concerned with pleasure. It makes the album tough to recommend past, say, next Tuesday, but if you’re having a party this weekend, put it on and get down.