New Duncan Imperials: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegas

Jason Thompson

New Duncan Imperials


Label: Pravda
US Release Date: 1997-03-25

You know, there's nothing better than kicking back over the weekend, specifically on a Friday night, and having a few friends up while you imbibe various bottles marked XXX and listen to the New Duncan Imperials. For here is a band that is the soundtrack to any rowdy night, a bar room gargantuan trio with rockabilly chops and just enough grease to keep things running at an efficient pace. People ask me what I love about Chicago. I reply, "I've never been there, but I can tell you what I didn't like -- The Bozo Show." But then it dawns on me that the New Duncan Imperials are the true darlings of Chicago! Not even the group Chicago is as cool as these cats. But then, that Chicago isn't as cool as a Steamer from Plopz.

Pravda Records has been kind to NDI. Why, they've even been nice enough to issue every one of their albums (even though some money must be exchanged under the table each time they do). Whenever Pigtail Dick, Skipper, and Goodtime enter the big executive offices at Pravda (which is actually just a cooler in a meat packing facility, so I'm told), the CEO just shakes his head, laughs, and exchanges a few six packs of fossilized Hamms beer for the master tapes. Before you know it, there's a new NDI album not on the shelves of your local music store, and you're lucky enough if you can find them. Those guys at Pravda sure are swell!

In 1997, a booze exchange was made for the release of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegas, NDI's millionth release. Well, not really their millionth, but at the rate these guys are going, they're gonna wind up having more LPs than Fat Elvis does, even posthumously! A collection of 15 good time tracks that are fit for any shindig, barn dance, teen hop at the local community center, or just sitting around getting inebriated to, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegas is another quality nail in the NDI coffin. One of these days, these guys are going to get too clever for themselves and become the next Supertramp! Or not. Thank God.

Go ahead and laugh, but the intergalactic love/hate song "Pathetica" really makes those kids swing! If it were to be played on American Bandstand, during "Rate-A-Record", you would no doubt win a pair of Jensen car audio speakers and a book of gift certificates to KFC just for saying how much you really loved dancing to it. And you would say that, because, as I said, "Pathetica" really swings, especially during those choruses when the band chimes in with all those "la-la-las" in harmony. Harmony! Whoda thunk NDI could pull it off? Well, I did! But, you didn't, so that's why I'm telling you.

You try to keep the house from burning down when "Pesticide" kicks in. Listen as Pigtail Dick wails away on that big ol' guitar and Goodtime bashes one of those patented "Smallest Drum Kits (tm)" as Skipper chug-a-lugs on that sleek bass! Find it in your hearts to throw some money in their straw hats as the boys croon "Tip-A-Cow", which they suddenly bludgeon to death when it turns into a furious speed rocker. Southern Culture On The Skids, look out! You have no place in The Windy City, and neither did Phil Donahue!

It can be argued that such wailin' rockers like "Potato Chicks" cause the youth of America to go out and start rebelling against the local J-V squads, but I just won't hear of that. No, sir. This kind of music makes kids go out and buy Slim Jims and pork rinds. NDI is all about Swank, and no, not that magazine, either (although they could be). We won't rule it out just yet. On the other hand, just take the advice of "Dream Of Japan", won't you? "Shoes make the man/Booze makes the band". This is serious advice from three sages who know no celestial or astral boundaries, my friends. This is high quality styro-product with no CFCs to burn out the ozone layer. Although I'm sure the sheer volume of gas left behind by NDI's fans will take care of that on its own.

I won't even bother explaining the title of "Nose Maul Problem". All you need to know is that Pigtail can pin the tail on Eddie Van Hagar any day he likes. He can play that git-box just like Chuck Berry, or the wannabe "look at me, I helped water down swing music and make it kool for kidz" Brian Setzer, or even Jimi Hendrix's long lost fourth half-cousin Brad. He's that amazing. And I don't even have to begin to tell you how breathtaking the booty-shaking melody of "Love-A-Rama" actually is. If I did, your minds would melt because let me tell you, it's just as perfect as nabbing a hundred bucks from grandma's purse and then watching her put the blame on grandpa. Boy, I could tell you some stories.

Some parents have been outraged that their kids have been listening to songs like "Sex Drive" and "Makin' Out With My Dad". They realized they weren't half as offensive as those Eminem and Limp Bizkit CDs. "Why don't you play that Corn Cob band, Johnny, so that I might be able to get worried about your personality warping from listening to a second rate band with an ugly lead singer who can't even rock and roll?" The mothers say that, you know. "If you keep playing those nice Duncans, I might have to steal those LPs for myself!" Yep, NDI strikes again by bridging the generation gaps parents so desperately want to join together during those troubled teen years. Well, now they can.

And if the mayhem of "Right String Baby" doesn't make you finally believe that Kid Rock is so not rock, that he'll soon be auditioning for the part of the Underwood Devil, then may Rock and Roll Heaven have mercy on your soul. No, don't come crying when you hear the brutal chunk of "Tank", or the tender lovin' sympathies of "I, Janitor". It will be just too much, and you'll be left with nothing but a puddle of your own tears and a personal handy pack of Kleenex to soak it up with.

Which leaves "It's Popular". NDI doesn't need to sell themselves short, or out. They know they're the Kings of Chicago. You won't see them walking around with Kurt Cobain memorial shirts on and weeping over Jim Morrison's so-called poetry. No! You won't find them on MTV, while fifty girls wearing "JC is sexy!" placards scream their heads off in hopes that 'N Sync will be number one on the TRL countdown for the zillionth day in a row. No, you'll just find NDI rocking the house down whenever you play their music. Pigtail Dick, Skipper, and Goodtime have been kind enough not to forget the rock. Thank them for that.

And thank Pravda for all those beer exchanges that allow you to hear all this great music. Why, NDI have even released their latest record, Sticky thanks to a couple cases of Jagermeister and a half dozen meat sticks and a can of smokehouse almonds. This is rock and roll, dear readers. Indie label rock with no pretensions about being indie. Don't ever worry about the New Duncan Imperials selling out. They simply can't (for monetary as well as employment reasons). And well, every great rock 'n' roll band knows you have to work for beer eventually. But that's another NDI song on another NDI album. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegas isn't that exact album, but it's just as good. So take a swig and taste the rock...and don't forget to burp.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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