GROOVE ARMADA, FAZE ACTION
In many ways Vertigo (Zomba), last year’s album by British duo Groove Armada, is your typical UK dance full-length. It’s got all the usual strong points–“In My Bones” is subterranean, narcotized house, “Chicago” an anthem to the DJ elders, “At the River” a tongue-in-cheek chill-out–and some of the same weak ones, like the lame rap interlude “Whatever, Whenever” and the generic Madchester throwback “If Everybody Looked the Same.” But whenever the record starts to drag, Tom Findlay and Andy Cato throw out a great big hook, rescuing it from the purgatory of the merely average: the raw chant of “Shakin’ that ass, shakin’ that ass” on “I See You Baby” could get any party off the ground, and the snarling mess of wah-wah guitar underpinning “Your Song” makes it the perfect thing to bring a crowd back down. Fatboy Slim’s meaty, big-beaty, bouncy remix of “I See You Baby” is included on the CD; ten bucks says Groove Armada will play his version here. And I do mean play: onstage Findlay and Cato don’t DJ but lead a nine-piece group. Openers and fellow Brits Faze Action, on the other hand, probably will just DJ, though their dense, baroque, multilayered music seems to cry out for the same kind of big-band treatment. On 1997’s Plans & Designs (Nuphonic) and last year’s Moving Cities (F-111), brothers Simon and Robin Lee take house back to its origins as loft disco, reprising that sticky melange of Afro-Latin percussion, weird upscale funk, and the boldest and most indulgent efforts from the likes of MFSB and the Salsoul Orchestra. Regrettably, they also share disco’s weakness for universal-brotherhood bromides (“To Love Is to Grow”)–but since Faze Action’s lyrics are usually nothing but a repetitive chant of the song title, it’s easy to pay attention instead to all the action in the music. On the new record’s “Got to Find a Way,” growling bass and airy violins, a la disco producer Arthur Russell circa 1979, meld with chirping electronics reminiscent of electro mastermind Arthur Baker’s mid-80s work; “Moving Cities” piles playful percussion and bubbling funk guitar onto a dramatically seesawing string quartet. “In the Trees,” which appears on both albums, tops a tiptoeing garage-house bass line with thrilling cello and viola parts and synthesized wind noises. The orchestral textures and stacked arrangements might remind you of Spring Heel Jack, but Faze Action’s moody tunes are meant for the dance floor, not the living room sofa. Wednesday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Pete Moss.