I don’t know much about Chromeo, but I do know they are a joke. A shtick. Two Canadian EDM dudes playacting as silky, over-the-top, 70s-Euro playboys. I mean, just look at them. No seriously, take a look at that cover image. Now tell me if this isn’t a “We’re in on our own joke, now let’s pop some illicit substances and get this (warehouse party/massive EDM festival/Terminal Five) rocking with some over-slick, non-challenging party anthems with proudly dumb lyrics about chicks and designer brands.” Bands like this are needed. They take the edge off in uncertain times. The issue is that in previous uncertain times, like in 2014 for example when the Fork gave Chromeo’s White Women record a 7.6, Pitchfork Media could understand this type of thing and appreciate it for what it was, or at least be able to identify a joke/shtick.
Since being Conde’ Nasted a couple years ago the former “Most Trusted Voice In Music” has been standing like a stern parent at your bedroom door with arms folded, expressing how disappointed they are in you for enjoying a certain record that has fallen afoul of a moral code so strict and unrelenting that even a playact like Chromeo gets tsk tsk tsked to death on their sites’ grey space, a space greyer and more out-of-touch and humor-free than ever on this PMRC-style review/op-ed.
If you scroll to the very last paragraph of this review and isolate the very first sentence of said paragraph, you really have all you need to know about this band and record:
“’Just Friends’ could tear the roof off a particular kind of penthouse party in DTLA or Williamsburg.”
And there you have it. This is what Chromeo is here for. To tear the roof off of parties. And this record will no doubt accomplish just that in major metropolises all across the world. Jesse Dorris could have let the whole thing go after just that point, but no, Pitchfork’s current Dan Quayle vibe comes out to play and spends the entirety of the review letting Chromeo know just how disappointed they are in them for not taking life too seriously, grounding them for a week and putting them on trash and dishes duty to teach them a real-life lesson about the dangers of joking around and playing roles.
Dorris kicks of the review of, ahem, Chromeo by quoting, wait for it, Carl Marx. Yes, you heard that correct. The Spinal Tap of EDM has been Marxed in the very first sentence of their Pitchfork review. Dorris next makes the understandable link between a band like this and Daft Punk (funky grooves, gimmicks, 70s lothario throwback vibe, debates on if they’re serious or not) but ruins the analogy by instantly accusing both of playing to “increasingly vast crowds as white, heterosexual guys rediscovered the joys of dancing their girlfriends and gay friends and POC acquaintances never forgot”. And this is a bad thing? Getting the straights out on the dance floor once again? All walks of life united beneath giant, spinning disco balls? One nation under a groove? Apparently not in Pitchfork’s eyes. If this were Footloose, it’s increasingly clear that The Fork would be playing the role of the parents and church, trying to outlaw all the fun.
Just like all the overly-stern, thick people who just couldn’t understand the parody of Spinal Tap in the 80s, Dorris spends the entire review tripping over the banana peels he himself has dropped on the ground. As slapstick, it’s hilarious. As a record review, it’s just atrocious. In the space of one sentence he manages to pinpoint the record as “a funky kind of farce” while at the same time chastising it for having “really dumb ideas”. Much like what The Tap was to 80s hair metal, Chromeo is for modern-day EDM, putting a spotlight on all the dumbest elements of a genre and blowing them up into grotesque proportions. It’s the definition of parody. But don’t tell that to Jesse Dorris. His head might explode. Check this out:
“First single ‘Juice’ pours out a sugary, intoxicating groove reminiscent of ’80s boogie masters Mtume, whose Tawatha Agee provides backing vocals, then sours it with some gross ideas about power dynamics: ‘Relationships ain’t a democracy,’ oh, Jesus, gross.”
Like the best role players, Chromeo stay true to their scripted characters at all times. And since their roles are ignorant lotharios obsessed with gold chains, high class models, and exclusive Euro beach resorts, of course they would be rocking the above line in 2018. The whole project would be a failure if they hadn’t. But this is just another banana peel trip-and-fall we can all have a good laugh at, and Dorris hits the floor again and again and again over the course this bruising review. It’s slapstick gold. In one breath he will admit, “To be fair, it’s the cost of doing business if you’re a fan of the band that brought you “Needy Girl” and “Sexy Socialite” and with the next falls flat on his face by getting all Dan Quayle/PMRC over the band’s “macho theatrics” and their “weird about women” lyrics. Carl Marx rears his sore, stern head once again when Dorris, no seriously get ready for this, gets all uptight that a Chromeo song is “like ‘Common People’ without the class consciousness” as if Pulp and The Chromes weren’t two vastly different beasts.
It doesn’t get much more slapstick than when Dorris pulls out the dreaded Ivanka Trump card just because there are some lyrics espousing the classic Chromeo theme of taking models shopping on credit. “Falling for this acquisition-as-affection is a bad decision too,” he scolds. Yes, Dad. Sorry it was just a joke. No, I don’t need the credit card lecture again. I heard you the first time. God. Can I go to my room and listen to the new Chromeo now? Or how about when he chastises these musical comedians for sporting mannequin legs on the cover as is perfectly fitting for the brand they’ve stayed true to for 15 highly successful years? “These days such co-opting of realness is real meh. It’s genderfluid like a tech bro in a stunt romper drinking a Monster.” And of course right after this bit of humorless, stern moralizing, he turns and falls, one last hilarious time, right on his face by admitting, “the farce is strong with these ones.” Wait, this could all be a joke? Like, maybe they don’t, like, actually mean it? If you would stop dropping those banana peels on the floor, Dorris, then maybe you’d stop slipping on them.
There was a point in this review where I wondered, “Could Jesse Dorris himself be playing a role here? Slipping behind the pen of a morally chastising new school reviewer who just doesn’t get the joke? And if so, then has he laid out a banana peel for me that I’ve just slipped on?” It’s really just too meta to think about, man, and if it’s true then hats off to you, Jesse. You’ve trolled us something major here and we’ve fallen for it. As a matter of fact, for Jesse Dorris’ sake and the sake of all parody and fun and humor everywhere, we truly hope this is the case.
Is it, Jesse?