I took a break from reviewing the Disco Biscuits fifth studio effort, Planet Anthem, and listened to the group’s 2001 release, They Missed the Perfume. The purpose was to get a better idea of how far the band members have come in the nine years between albums. As much I love Perfume, the comparison now makes it sound like the Biscuits were throwing all their ideas into the mix in a no-holds barred mimicry of a live performance.
In 2010, the electronica explorations are replaced by writing chops that blend dance, hip-hop and rock elements in tight structures. The new album also shows that after nearly a decade’s worth of experience and artistry has passed, the band now focuses on the core concept behind a song. Despite a number of guests collaborating on the 12 songs here, the quartet doesn’t lose its identity through the creative process as much as it forges a new one that focuses on songcraft. And, as evidenced by the times I’ve caught the group live, their playing displays much more confidence, a higher awareness of each other plus stronger grooves and deeper jams. Opening track “Loose Change” attests to that approach as it lays down a thick foundation for a more pop-oriented melodic construction. Hell, it even sounds a little like Slim Shady providing the mantra of “Money!” throughout the track. Speaking of “guests,” among the many producers, songwriters and musicians involved, RYAT deserves special mention for her vocals on “Rain Song.” Sounding like a collaboration between Beth Orton and the Chemical Brothers, RYAT’s contribution mixes quite well with the band members’ voices.
“On Time” and “You and I” dive even further into an electro-groove to the point that it’s barely recognizable as material created by a group of musicians known for 15 years as the Disco Biscuits. One can only imagine the mass hysteria created when such numbers are re-imagined for the concert stage. “Widgets” mixes a faint salsa rhythm with hip-hop elements. “Fish Out Of Water” has the atmosphere of a Brian Wilson outtake while the Crystal Method acts like the inspiration for “Konkrete” as well as “Sweatbox” with the additional influence of Outkast.
Starting with “The City,” the songs slide back to a more familiar Disco Biscuits sound. Interestingly, out of these final three tracks, “Big Wrecking Ball” and its back-to-basics normalcy makes it a little ho-hum compared to all that’s gone before it. It’s a reminder that the members have not completely abandoned the main principles of their sound, but also that their experimentation has provided a lot more musical pleasures than expected.