The victory Ted Nugent and his ilk thought they’d scored by "killing" disco during the ’80s was a fleeting triumph at best. Though artists ranging from Daft Punk to Glass Candy have recently mined the glitter-ball era for inspiration to thrilling effect, the man who’s probably most directly associated with disco’s resurgence is LCD Soundsystem frontman and DFA Records cofounder James Murphy.
So it was Murphy, along with his band’s live drummer, Pat Mahoney, to whom London’s Fabric club turned for the thirty-sixth entry in its long-running Fabriclive series. Their collection showcases a connoisseur’s devotion to obscurity and a seasoned party-starter’s feel for continuous flow. But its massive twenty-four-track running order shows that this mix was made with a club in mind. The sheer weight of the assembled funk seems to call out for the distraction that cocktail refills, shouted flirting, and occasional bathroom breaks would bring. The songs are well selected, but the law of diminishing returns is very evident.
Moments of inspired juxtapositions attempt to redeem the general overkill. Murphy and Mahoney hit you with a quasi-mainstream one-two punch early, segueing from the imposing drum sounds of Chic’s "I Feel Your Love Comin’ On" to the elastic bass lines of Was (Not Was)’s "Tell Me I’m Dreaming." These (slightly dated) artists have an undeniable authority that some of the lesser tracks lack.
More interesting are the very few instances where Murphy connects the dots between ’80s disco arcana and his label’s current output. Gichy Dan’s playful 1979 ZE Records’ single, "Cowboys & Gangsters," flows perfectly into the more modern, techno-influenced "Still Going Theme" from current DFA signee Still Going. The handclap breakdowns and pop choruses of the forgotten Canadians called Punkin’ Machine are a worthy lead-in for "Hippie Priest Bum Out," LCD Soundsystem’s lone contribution. The compilers’ band sounds more focused and less indulgent than the tracks that surround it, again highlighting their talent at cherry picking the best bits from their influences and canning the bloat.
The mix’s breadth solidifies that approach’s necessity. For every nuanced gem like Love Committee’s "Just as Long as I’ve Got You," there are three tracks drowned in funk wankery and empty vocal overdubs. The mix finally winds down with Peter Gordon and the Love of Life Orchestra’s "Don’t Don’t," a calm and pretty a cappella begging us not to go. The blast of pure melodic beauty is enticing after all the exhaustive ass shaking, but it’s hard to that imagine anyone would want to heed its plea and immediately dive back in.