By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Tomorrow's sound is already yesterday's detritus; the electronic revolution is over, and still the singer-songwriters and long-hairs are standing, laughing at the empty dance floors and emptier cash registers. Electronica, an already archaic term created by Spin in a desperate last stab at relevancy, has come and gone, and all the major labels have to show for it is a Prodigy record that gets played more during time-outs at Mavericks games than it does on radio; and the children shall lead them, right to the Spice Girls. But there's still a little phat left on the bones, a band whose hip-hop can live up to its hip-hype, a Brit duo who makes music as though they didn't just discover rap yesterday and pretend to speak it as a first language.
Propellerheads Alex Gifford (bass, Hammond organ) and Will White's (percussion) big beat throwdown is dance-floor exotica rooted in old-school rap and older-school pop--for them, J.B. means John Barry and Jungle Brothers. The Prop'heads make the only disco that matters; it even sounds better live, where it has more room to breathe and sweat and shout. Theirs is a soundtrack dense and complex yet never so inaccessible that you can't still feel it once the echoes fade and the dry-ice smoke clears. And never does the music on Decksandrumsandrockandroll feel like anything less than today, even though it's all about silken martini yesterdays.
The melodies are so very 1960s, the references rooted in spy-movie soundtracks when the partners aren't hiring out for De La Soul or the Jungle Brothers to give them that "authentic" 1980s downtown vibe. When Shirley "Goldfinger" Bassey shows up on "History Repeating," subtly slurring words like an aging beauty queen on a bender, the electronic becomes suddenly very human, very warm, very real; Bassey hasn't recorded in more than a decade, and her presence here could be mistaken for kitschy homage, but she turns in a gutsy, soulful performance over a horny-horns groove. When De La Soul shows up on "360u (Oh Yeah?)" and the Jungle Brothers attack "You Want It Back," Decksandrums... shows what happens when you use fresh tracks instead of stale, fish-wrapped Schoolly D samples.
But Gifford and White stand quite well without the crutch of special guests: "Take California" kicks in and never lets up, boring a hole straight to the soul; "Velvet Pants" sizzles with a corduroy groove; "Bang On!" sounds like Moby and Aphex Twin locked in a caged deathmatch; "Spybreak!" is the sound of James Bond having a heart attack. And the rest is all killer, no filler.