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Various Artists

If This Is House I Want My Money Back 2

(Permanent Vacation; US: 13 Sep 2011; UK: 5 Sep 2011)

What is house music? That sounds like a question that might have come booming from loudspeakers in Chicago circa 1989, but it’s just as legitimate today. The term has been watered down to mean just about anything that has a 4/4 beat and doesn’t fit into another convenient sub-genre. Tom Bioly and Benji Fröhlich’s Permanent Vacation label aims to get back to when house music was a proper noun.

Their second label showcase, If This Is House I Want My Money Back 2, doesn’t quite emulate the slinky Chicago days. However, it is a throwback to a more considered, less frenetic type of four-on-the-floor dance music. Clean synthesizers, asthmatic electronic bass lines, and Roland 808s are all heavily featured. It’s a welcome sound, subdued, yet with more feeling than “tech-”, “deep-” or “minimal” house. Mano Le Tough’s “Let’s Not Talk About Love” recalls the New Order 12-inches of the mid-1980s, while Pional’s “Just Passing Through” is full-on groovy. At its least inspired, If This Is House I Want My Money Back 2 sounds like a thrown-together collection of ‘80s and ‘90s signifying sounds, but quite often, it rises above mere nostalgia to reach the sublime.


John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of "first good female rocker" was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.

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