Out & About

Tom Tom Club: I've always had a thing for smart people making dumb music. Not like Weird Al Yankovic (smart person making smart music) or Britney Spears (smart mom making dumb daughter make dumb music), but like Devo, where half the show is finding out where the show starts. Or Beat Happening, where a willful amateurism is utilized to affirm DIY potential. That's why I've always admired the Tom Tom Club, the largely brainless party band formed by the Talking Heads' rhythm section in 1980. "Genius of Love," the band's ubiquitous hit from their debut record, is a prime example of the joys in letting go, the attitudinal tonic to the Heads' cerebral art-funk. If you've not heard it, you've no doubt heard one of the gajillion songs that have sampled it in the 20 years since it was released--Mariah Carey's "Fantasy," perhaps (obviously, dumb person making smart music).It makes sense that the song's been subjected to two decades of the pop-culture blender, as the Tom Tom Club's essentially done that themselves for as long, crafting good-time jams from scraps of hip-hop, disco and various South American forms. Surprisingly, the joke hasn't really worn thin, as the new The Good the Bad and the Funky demonstrates. It's the band's fifth record (about four more than you'd think necessary), and it finds Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth ensconced in their comfy suburban Connecticut milieu. Yet despite that (or perhaps because of it), they're as insistent on getting down with the low-brow sound as ever, still able to make irresistible, candy-coated dance music as the day they grew tired of David Byrne's difficult ass.

The unabashed joie de vivre on display throughout surprised me the most; I guess I figured that a couple of fortysomethings would've grown tired with stuff like this, but there's Weymouth, purring inanities like "Up and down, the people wanna bounce to the funky sound/You got your radios blaring and the DJs flaring all over town," on the record's best track, the improbably effervescent "Happiness Can't Buy Money." And there's Frantz, laying down a Prince Paul-worthy loop on "Lesbians by the Lake," letting Abdou M'Boup get wicked on the kora. Meanwhile, I'm sitting there scanning the room for the nearest lampshade, thinking I should call my parents and invite them over.

There're missteps here, as when Weymouth passes the mic to one of her and Frantz's guests or invites some ill-advised toasting from Mystic Bowie, but they hardly sink the ship, as everything here offers something to savor. Party music rarely gets this good, or this deep. Credit the brainiacs behind the bar.

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Mikael Wood