[22 January 2006]
“The idle mind is a playground for the Devil.”
— My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, “Do You Wanna Get Funky with Me”
The Pink Panther remake starring Steve Martin was originally supposed to be released last fall, but was pushed back to this winter. Never a good sign. When a flick gets bumped from August tent-pole status to the barren, post-holiday, winter movie wasteland, it’s a clear sign that the problems surrounding the film are greater than rewrites or re-shoots or re-edits or marketing pushes can fix. My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult’s Gay, Black and Married is an album created in the mid-1990s, influenced by the late 1970s, and released in the mid-2000s. If you can follow that timeline, you begin to realize that this collection languished on the shelf for a decade, and probably for good reason.
Put together while Groovie Mann and Buzz McCoy were on a break from their European tour at the time, Gay, Black and Married is more of a one-off side project than an actual Thrill Kill Kult release, per se. Mann and McCoy are billed as “director” and “producer” on this release, respectively. But, with the exception of the opening track, all of the songs were written by Skye d’Angelo and Enzo Santiago, who are also credited with the album’s “concept.”
Gay, Black and Married, which is split between a side A and a side B, leads off with its strongest track, a cover of Peter Brown’s 1977 “Do You Wanna Get Funky with Me”. Of course, it’s hard to go wrong when you’re covering the first-ever million-selling 12” single, which was written and originally performed by the co-writer of Madonna’s “Material Girl”. D’Angelo, Santiago, and the boys’ approach to the song is deceptively simple, and the necessary Thrill Kill Kult fingerprints are on it—including a Vocoder-exclusive spoken rap, beat-heavy synth, and a sly nod to their own hit with the late refrain, “It’s so hot / I’m burnin’ up.”
The play on words title and phrasing of “Euro-Freak Hustle” (say the title out loud and don’t enunciate and you’ll be there) is clever and actually enough to carry the six-minute track. With synth-horns and strings and the requisite Thrill Kill Kult samples, “Euro-Freak Hustle” is 100% ‘70s disco sleaze mashed through a mid-‘90s house remixer. “Freaky Fever” again plays up the excess of the decade it is simultaneously emulating, sending up, and paying homage to with a radio edit and an eight-minute, Studio 69 worthy album cut. “Shake that thang,” indeed, but you’re gonna be tired when they’re through with you.
Unfortunately, after those three engaging opening tracks, the album falls into a mostly droning repetition. With more than half of the songs clocking in at over six minutes, the beats and synth tend to wear the listener down instead of keep the dancer on the floor. The eight-minute “One Nite Stand” is a blend of industrial dance, house, and disco, extinguishing itself by the one-minute mark. “Foreign World”‘s ‘70s TV cop show music opening quickly gives way to an ‘80s TV romantic drama/comedy hybrid theme song feel (think Moonlighting), then throws in some right-field movie samples. It’s a jarring, confounding listen. At least the funk bass line of the side B-opening “Paradise Motel” keeps things mostly interesting over the course of its seven instrumental minutes.
And there are a couple of bright spots later in the album—“Magic Boy, Magic Girl” and “Sci-Fi Affair” are ear-catching creations. What starts out as ominous on “Magic Boy, Magic Girl” quickly slides into seedy treatise to “release the magic” because “you wanna touch it,” “you wanna taste it.” The perfectly placed samples used to open “Sci-Fi Affair” eventually blend into synth-strings and space-age whistles that makes this track feel just like what you would expect from a Thrill Kill Kult nod to disco.
Gay, Black and Married. If ever there were four words meant to be strung together to form a My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult album title, those are the ones. But as can sometimes be the case, the album’s title is more clever than the album’s contents. So we’re left with an album that would have at least pushed buttons ten years ago. In the present, however, only a couple of tracks should have found their way onto a rarities collection.