Mar 03

Exposé — ‘Point of No Return’ (1985)

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All signs are pointing towards Exposé lately. This past month definitely; this past week most strikingly. Last weekend I finally upgraded Exposed to CD ($1.99 at the Princeton Record Exchange!). And just yesterday, the best eBay score of my life arrived in the post — my 12-CD Disco Box. The tenth CD’s loaded with all the superb outer-borough synthy latinoid freestyle jams I used to hear on New York’s Hot 97 around ’86 or so. Tracks 14 and 15 are ‘Exposed to Love’ segued into the single remix of ‘Point of No Return.’

Top Five Things Driving Me To Listen to ‘Point of No Return’ Nonstop:

1) The main synth line’s so buoyant and enthusiastic — it’s just a simple downward digression from a minor arpeggio, but every time the keyboardist comes back up to the top note he jumps up and high fives it. Song starts out w/ one bar’s worth of just the chorus riff and an expectant metronomic beat, then the rest comes crashing down, with that riff leading the pack into the first verse as more synth parts are introduced one by one — when the singer’s ready to come in the mood’s all set and the main line drops out, to be reintroduced at the chorus.

2) I’m really beginning to appreciate songs with a ‘circular’ feel — songs with two or three basic elements that pingpong throughout so (while you’re listening) it feels like the tune is its own airtight clockwork timespace continuum. There’s a short bridge section here that would be a monkeywrench if I weren’t so inclined to keep hitting the “back” button every time the song ends — but yeah, like Cat Power’s ‘He War,’ ‘Point of No Return’ has a wonderful sense of claustro-circularity.

3) The moment of perfect discord immediately before the verse resolves to the chorus — as the last, upward-thrusting note of ‘I wanna take you in my arms’ clashes with the other group members’ incidental, distant, almost bored ‘uh-uh-ohhh.’

4) The singing’s nasal, thin, amateurish, and while the projected image is one of posh glamour and iconic, nominal, barely addressed ‘sexiness,’ there’s more fly-gyal ‘Jenny From the Block’ realness here than anything J.Lo’s released since her first single. ‘Point of No Return’ is the sound of the starstruck, driven homegirl shuffling from audition to audition, getting crabs on the casting couch, barely making rent in her pre-gentrified Hell’s Kitchen walkup. (The AMG tells me Exposé were from Miami, but in my fantasies they all grew up in Queens and went to the Fame school.)

5) Ronettes, Eurodisco, new wave, salsa, heavy metal (there’s a guitar solo, and tell me that flangey metallic k.o. before the big finish doesn’t remind you of ‘Another One Bites the Dust’) (rock-dance converges with dance-rock and everyone goes home happy).

Mar 03

Kid Rock feat. Sheryl Crow — ‘Picture’

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It’s ‘Visions of Johanna’ rewrit for Branson happy-hour tagteam karaoke, innit? Kid’s ‘I can’t look at you while I’m lyin’ next to her’ makes ‘her’ the unfortunate Louise to Sheryl’s Johanna, ‘cept Sheryl’s the present (absentee) lover and not the handy signifier of some vast and undefined longing. Add some boilerplate-‘wistful’ tour-diary lamenting (cf. ‘Turn the Page,’ ‘Faithfully’) and a melody stickyfingered from a final-sale drugstore cassette bin, and there’s your ‘Picture.’ The video, though: Recording Artists Recording a Song in a Recording Session! In a Studio! MTV-age kids are used to the ol’ cans-around-the-ears pretense, sure, but Rock-Crow go you a few further: jotting lyrics on a pad (also see: strategically ‘crossed-out’ lyrics), nodding their heads to the beat, hunching over acoustic instruments, exchanging nervous/attentive glances during respective vocal downtimes, making sure you the audience know that you’re witnessing the collaborative process in action, that you’re watching a song being born (man). And it’s all good as long as you don’t look too literally into the actual text; Kid’s pinched climactic whinny (‘I was off to drink you away‘) elicits a visible belly-laugh from his co-star, whose character purportedly misses her subject enough that she wouldn’t dare mock him to his face if given the chance. Hooray for the new sincerity!