he 1980s are a sticking point for a lot of people. Myself, I was young, but vaguely sentient about my surroundings: I knew about the endgame of the Cold War and all its uncertainty and buried hope; I knew about the rise in crime all over, and had some idea about the economic and social mien out of which it bloomed. I knew about Reagan and trickle-down economics and Iran-Contra and all that, mostly by good old Judeo-lefty indoctrination. Most importantly, I knew all about Debbie Gibson and Roxette and Motley Crue and the endless stream of escapist pop the decade produced. I didn't connect the dots between the angst of the time and its shiny, happy surface accouterments until later—recently, in fact, when our current angst has brought us back to '80s-style escape-pop, with all its promise of riches and endless good times. I despised much of this music at the time, but couldn't place why. I know a little better now, and have a better appreciation for some small subset of it, even if I'm still of the mind that a lot of '80s pop was just condescending garbage, so jaded and cynical about simple fun that it just wasn't fun anymore.
When it came back into fashion, I was braced to hate it all over again. Dr. James Murphy of the Society for Reactionary Dismissal called it “nostalgia for the unremembered '80's,” and he had a point: all these kids and their vintage 808s were just too young in the main to know what they were really aping. And right at the epicenter was a Montreal-based DJ named Tiga Sontag. You know Tiga, but three words by way of illustration: Corey Fucking Hart. I still can't tell if Tiga and Zintherius's version of “Sunglasses At Night” is better than the original—hotter and more genuinely dark and cool—or if the original is just better than I remembered, but I do recall the young Mr. “Hart” being quite serious about needing those sunglasses at night, while Tiga quite obviously thinks that's kind of funny, and there's the key. If you can't find the humor in your frommage, then do us all a service and collaborate with the Chieftains already. Or Il Divo.
So yes, I'm saying that Tiga is the modern king of the novelty cover (fuck Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and fuck Richard Cheese, too). There's three here, though really only one is truly worth all the tread-lightly ambivalence that phrase conjures. He swats half-heartedly at Nine Inch Nails' “Down in It,” and the submarine bass and half-whispered singing (courtesy of Tiga himself, as almost everywhere else) isn't so much depressive as zonked-out. He turns Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” into full-on Juan Atkins acid, more “We don't need no water” than “Same as it ever was.” But the real coup de grace is “Louder Than a Bomb.” Yes, that “Louder Than a Bomb.” The one by Public Enemy. And yes, the guy raps, over squelchy, cymbal-heavy disco, with these weird car-alarm beeps that have no bearing on anything, and of course, bomb noises. The whole thing is a much bigger blast you'd expect, and has a surprisingly long shelf life for what's essentially a suppressed giggle you can dance to. And if you don't squirt your Jack and Coke out of your nose when Tiga raps, “Professor Griff knows I ain't milquetoast,” then there's something wrong with you.
Oh, and it's a concept record. Sexor, according to some scattered monologues, is either a planet full of beings with no hip joints and flexible skulls who do nothing that can't be done horizontally, or it's their King/Prince/spiritual guide—an ambisexual mangirl who trails pheremones behind him like a snail. But, really, Tiga's just too goofy to smolder properly, and that's far more charming, and sexier to boot. “Pleasure from the Bass” rides a skittery roll and some chunky bass, while the man half-raps about his “curiosity” (ahem) and nicks a lyric from “Welcome to the Jungle.” He brings in but one lone guest diva—Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters—on “You Gonna Want Me,” and the guy vamps it up nasally on the chorus, like the dorky little club rat he probably is, as the fried Italo-house runs under like a bedazzled treadmill. Even if the rest of it gets a little one-note, it's an addictive note, and miles hotter than Corey Hart and his chiseled jaw-line and sad-boy pout ever was. He deserved to get shown up by a nerdy, sweetly shy DJ who still knows his pleasure principle when it finds him.
Reviewed by: Jeff Siegel
Reviewed on: 2006-02-23