[16 August 2006]
Confuzed Disco is a compilation of Italian dance music from the 1980s. Fans of the Bologna-based Italo disco label Italian Records have dug into the archives and put together a generous two-disc spread of new wave, electro, and club-pop, some of it still with its hints-of-the-‘70s flavour intact, but much of it remixed recently by contemporary DJs who have streamlined the old sounds and made them pump and thump.
All of the unmixed songs are on the first CD. This is the more fun of the two discs, and the one with the most singing. N.O.I.A., a long-lived group founded in 1979 and still releasing albums, is well represented here, with the happy buzz of “True Love (Sexual Version)” and the pouter-pigeon thrust of “Do You Wanna Dance?” A.I.M.‘s “Thailand Seeds” has plenty of ‘80s pop-rock touches but the rapid momentum looks forward to the ‘90s; to something quicker, more minimalist.
Paolo Bocchi, working under the nom de plume, Answering Service, gives Confuzed Disco one of its catchiest tracks in “Call Me Mr. Telephone”. “Call me Mr. Telephone”, a male voice sings with the confidence of one who has found a foolproof pick-up line. “Call me Mr. Telephone! Yeah, rock your feet to the funky beat!” It’s so nonsensical and yet so sure of itself, so pleased and zappy, that it sticks in your head.
One of the things that struck me about this music (because I am not an expert in the history of dance) is that the exhortations and the ecstatic tone of the singing haven’t changed at all. The woman who sings, “You make me want to be glad … please don’t be sad, babe!” on Fawzia’s “Please Don’t Be Sad”, could be brought forward two decades and implanted in whatever song is playing in the club up the road and no one would notice.
Oh yes, one thing to point out. Despite the nationality of the musicians, all of the songs are sung in English. In fact, absent some very subtle Italian musical fingerprint applied strictly to dance music (that I’m failing to recognise) there’s nothing here that marks the music on Confuzed Disco as intrinsically Italian. It’s not like those Brazilian mixes that use touches of tropicalia or familiar Brazilian effects to let you know that the sounds you’re listening to were made in Brazil. Someone in the know might hear one of these tracks and say, “Oh wow—Funky Family’s “Funky Is On”? Isn’t that Italian?” but the average punter is not going to recognise the difference.
The music on the second disc is harder and harsher than the first, with more emphasis on deep, basso beats, the kind that you feel, rather than hear. They throb in your stomach. The Franz & Shape remix of N.O.I.A.‘s “Stranger in a Strange Land” is pounding and menacing, and the Ajello remix of Neon’s “Lobotomy” thumps fiercely while a robotic male voice says, “I got lo-bo-to-my for you” in a pleased kind of way. The Maskio “Vision 48” remix of “Thailand Seeds” hides itself behind a veneer of such firm, mechanical thudding that the song disappears into anonymity.
The abundance of remixes puzzles me. If the originals really are as delightful as the label says they are, then why have we been given some of them only in remixed form? What did “Lobotomy” sound like before Ajello went to work on it? If these archive refugees are rare and special, then why not let them stay as they were? The answer would probably go something like this: “Because we could; because we thought it would be fun to give them to the DJs and find out what they would come up with; because we thought the remixes sounded fast and happy and they’re not all as thumping as you’re making out; and aren’t they just as danceable as the originals anyway?” Yes they are, but the fact that they’re there at all means that our peppy, happy Confuzed Disco is attended by the very faint reek of a missed opportunity.