Arts & Style

Chic returns to music 30 years later, but too often resorts to old sound

Almost three decades since their last record was released, the revenant disco group Chic has reunited to release the aptly named, It’s About Time.

Founder and front-man Nile Rodgers framed his latest project as the most “self-indulgent” album he’s ever done, and after the 40-minute LP ends, it is evident that Chic has spent its hibernation aching for the nostalgic funk and disco sound the group made popular with songs like “Everybody Dance” and “Le Freak.”

Enlisting the artists of this generation and the next, It’s About Time glistens with youthful bliss when newcomers take the lead. Rappers like Vic Mensa and Stefflon Don add a modern hip-hop flicker while Guernsey-born producer Mura Masa conducts nu-disco-inspired productions.

Chic does fall victim to its own standout sound when the group sticks too much to it. The record feels like one long dance track, which worked when DJs spun single vinyl in disco clubs, but in 2018 the groove feels more monotonous than fun.

By the second half of the record, Chic loses all the interesting amalgams of ‘70s-disco-meets-modern-pop and turns to a recycling of its own sound.

Released as a single back in June, the opening track, “Till The World Falls,” gives listeners a hopeful idea of what Chic and disco can sound like in modern times. Masa infuses Chic’s iconic funky bass lines with his trademark electro-pop talents to create the sleek and glimmering production. Drawing inspiration from the cacophony of political and social turmoil, Rodgers suggests the best way to get through the end of the world is on the dancefloor.

This mantra is echoed by artist Cosha’s airy vocals and Mensa’s jutting verse, which both contribute to the whole contemporary and fun atmosphere. The track overall is one of the highpoints of Chic’s resurrection and gives listeners a reminder that, “you gotta have a song when the world falls down.”

“Till The World Falls” fulfills both that need for an apocalyptic anthem and the role of a great opening song.

Chic continues playing with the old and contemporary when self-described “wonky funk” artist NAO calls for listeners to “Surrender to the world” on “Boogie All Night.” The track doesn’t deviate far from Chic’s forte in funk, but NAO’s soulful and eerily pitched vocals lighten the groove with more carefree vigor. Chic carries this upbeat arch into “Sober,” where U.K. artists Craig David and Stefflon Don masterly fashion a modern R&B track.

Being assigned as the chief creative adviser at London’s Abbey Road Studios, Rodgers takes advantage of the talent across the pond. “Sober” bounces with a punchy chorus delivered by David, while Stefflon Don adds a short, self-confident verse toward the end.

LunchMoney Lewis’ presence on It’s About Time marks a downfall for the overall interesting vibe. Appearing on “Do You Wanna Party,” he drones on, repeating the title’s simple four words over the song’s three-minute course. Although very fitting to Chic’s brand, the song loses any vigor by the bridge, which thankfully shows signs of life when distorted vocals and a guitar solo pick up the insipid track.

The remainder of the album begins to show Chic’s age; the group stops collaborating with the innovative artists of today and regresses back to the same sound they’ve had for over 40 years.

Hailee Steinfeld’s efforts on “Dance With Me” appear more like those belonging to a cover for a kid’s movie than to a song from the same group that delivered dancefloor fillers like “Le Freak.”

Chic independently mans “I Dance My Dance”; a high point on the latter side of the record, but it gets overshadowed by songs like “State Of Mine.” Teaming up with French instrumentalist Philippe Saisse, the instrumental-only track sounds like the B side of Daft Punk’s last record where the vocals are distortedly murmured over piano and guitar.

Chic’s fatal flaw is not ignorance to what is in vogue, but rather a refusal to adapt to the changed musical zeitgeist. All of this results in cheesy and outdated songs, like “Queen,” where Elton John and Emeli Sandé lose touch with modern times. This continues as Lady Gaga resorts to her 2008 sound on the track “I Want Your Love,” which closes the record’s original songs.

Chic offers fresh and exciting work to the current music landscape, but too often resorts to its niche sound over innovation.

A follow-up album, Executive Realness, is expected in early 2019, which promises even more star-filled features, including Bruno Mars, Avicii and HAIM.

October 5, 2018

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Sven Larsen


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