Legs advocates Dave 1 and P-Thugg, the duo behind Montreal-made Chromeo, are three albums deep with Business Casual. The 10-song record traffics in the same electro-funk throwback of the pair’s past albums, yet somehow Dave and P have managed to spin the sound enough to avoid repetition. Business Casual is testament to this: not as irresistible as 2007′s Fancy Footwork, yet each song is totally dancey without dealing in the same tropes that beset other pithy revivalists.
Chromeo’s retro caricature abounds across Business Casual, sometimes venturing dangerously close to cheese but quickly convincing us with a sudden shift into soft acoustics or a funky guitar break. It works so well because the duo is able to filter some of the most iconic sounds of a decade most often ridiculed for its musical output (the ’80s if, for some reason, you haven’t guessed) into something that’s all parts listenable, palatable and modern. Everything from the vocoder to symphonic synths to post-funk guitars to blue-eyed soul stays heard on Business Casual, originally inspired and this summer, refined, by Hall & Oates.
Four-on-the-floor pacing and the duo’s trademarked vocoder quips are the basics of a Chromeo song, but on Business Casual the duo surprises, veering toward more sophisticated territory with darker chords and subject matter. “Hot Mess” (really, a phrase that was born to title a Chromeo song) deals with lyrics about loneliness wrapped around an anon female voice dealing out lowblows, and reaches a slowed-down Kanye-like stomp at its denouement. Already cool are throbby Internet singles “Night By Night” and “Don’t Turn The Lights On,” the former a spazzy, strobelight stealer, the latter a tinsel-hooked slowburner. Solange Knowles, newly metamorphosized dance-pop diva, shows up on “When The Night Falls,” sounding like a Emotions-era Mariah Carey and “J’ai claque la porte” plays much more subdued and sophisticated than anything Chromeo’s ever put out.
The defining thread running through Chromeo’s body of work is earnestness: you might scoff at the Lothario-obsession, the legs on display in the artwork, the almost-religious adherence to ’80s stylistics, but in the end you either have to a) give it up for their studiousness, or b) just dance.