Album Review: “Déjà Vu” by Giorgio Moroder

Deja Vu

Déjà Vu
Released: June 16th, 2015
Reviewed by Erik Wermuth
Rating: 2/5

The art for the Italian producer Giorgio Moroder’s new album Déjà Vu is an absolutely brilliant piece of marketing. It features the shape of Moroder’s signature handlebar mustache under a pair of retro sunglasses against a blazing neon pink background. The image taken together with the title is a clear invitation to remember his heyday in the early Eighties when he was producing major disco hits and classic scores for films like Flashdance, Scarface, and Top Gun. The picture, with its segmented, stylized face and visor also subtly invokes the famous masks of Daft Punk, whose 2013 album Random Access Memories was largely responsible for Moroder’s return to the public eye after a 30-year hiatus from releasing original music under his own name. He donated his voice and story to their track “Giorgio by Moroder” which really exemplifies Daft Punk’s ability to inject raw human emotion into the cold technique of electronic music. The album cover for Déjà Vu (not to mention its title) invites the listener to recall this bygone era. When Déjà Vu came up on my queue I fully expected an affectionate throwback album in the recent tradition of bands like Kavinsky and Chromeo. Who better to play on nostalgia for a lost decade than one of the originators of its now-classic sound? For my money, “Take My Breath Away” from the Top Gun soundtrack (interestingly, the song in his career of which Giorgio has stated he is the most proud) is one of the most intensely Eighties songs I can think of.

There are bigger disappointments in life than great marketing for a sub-par product, but none that sting quite like it.

To be clear, I don’t think that Déjà Vu is a bad piece of technical work. At all. Throughout the album one thing that remains eminently clear is that Moroder is a seasoned professional. Something is definitely gained here listening in a higher quality. Every song (and I mean every song) is locked down tighter than Tom Cruise’s jeans in Top Gun. The sound pops fully and consistently also much like Tom Cruise’s jeans in Top Gun. Unlike the Top Gun jeans, which contributed in their full and consistent tightness (uncomfortably so, in places) to the undeniable humanity of the character, the result for Déjà Vu is not the humanity of an artist, but the cold, airless distance of an advertising professional. From the tired piano chord-progressions to the pandering of the wub-wub basslines to the attempted guitar throwbacks to that early electronic sound, the work as a whole fails to convey any emotion whatsoever. Track titles like “Don’t Let Go”, “Right Here, Right Now”, and “Back and Forth” should convey just how little creative thought went into this album. It’s form without substance. It’s disco without cocaine. It’s Daft Punk if it turned out that they weren’t human after all.

There are some moments where the insufferably boring zero-risk attitude gives way to something more honestly felt. Charli XCX delivers an emotional vocal performance on “Diamonds” despite unimaginative production and (never thought that I’d be caught dead saying this) Britney Spears stole the show with her feature on “Tom’s Diner”. Her massively electronically altered voice fit the simple, haunting backtrack remarkably well. The only real bright spot for Moroder himself was the track “74 is the New 24”. It features far-and-away the best songwriting in the album as it’s the only song to feature any kind of personal involvement from the artist. Moroder was 74 at the time of the album’s release and obviously struggling with the idea of being one of the godfathers of electronic music still contributing to the scene decades later—the combination of faultless production and thematic elements beyond the disco power trio of Sex/Dancing, Love/Heartbreak, and Money/Drugs make “74 is the New 24” a pleasurable and thought-provoking listen. An entire album of tracks like it would have been a rare treasure.

Simply put, Déjà Vu completely fails to deliver on the aesthetic promise of its title and cover. Instead of a vibrant tribute to the feel of a lost decade with the tools of the present, the listener is presented with song after song full of all the clichés of contemporary pop and none of its inventiveness. The result is static and stale and the only nostalgia I’m feeling is for a time before I heard most of these tracks. I give Déjà Vu a disappointed 2/5.

Cowboy Mouth Interview

Cowboy Mouth is an energetic, fun-loving, pure-hearted New Orleans rock band with a twist of cajun and blues influence. Since the release of their first album, Word of Mouth, in 1992, the band has gained notoriety nationwide. With a current string of shows and a new album, Go, the time was perfect for us at Murfie to get in touch.

Below is a transcript of a phone call between Cowboy Mouth frontman Fred LeBlanc and myself (Kayla), from a few weeks ago in January. Fred is an entertaining fellow with a lot to say about the 90s music era, the changing music scene, the influence of big labels, and the vibrant energy in the southern United States. Read on and enjoy!

Fred LeBlanc Cowboy MouthK: Right now I have Fred Leblanc on the phone from Cowboy Mouth.

F: Woo-hoo!

K: Welcome! Where are you calling from today?

F: I’m calling from my house in Mississippi.

K: How’s the typical winter in Mississippi?

F: Well, seeing that you’re calling me from Wisconsin, I really have no reason to complain about anything as far as winter goes, ‘cause I could sit here and whine about the temperatures in the 40s, and you guys would probably think, “Oh, what a puss”—and you’d be right about that! But I get to do the same thing during the summer. As you sit there and complain about temperatures in the 70s and 80s, I’m sitting here, you know high 90s early 100s, or something like that, and I could call you a puss back. So I’m not gonna complain, it’s beautiful, every day above ground. Right?

K: Absolutely. You guys are doing your thing down south, and Cowboy Mouth has been in action for two decades at least, so it’s cool to talk to you because you have all this perspective on rock music and the industry—

F: Haha! That’s a nice way of saying, “Gimme what you’ve got, Grandpa!”

K: Haha! So it’s really valuable, and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot, which leads me to something I was wondering about—the rock scene, and how it’s changed over the years. I know it was kinda grunge-y when you got started. So how have you seen things change?

F: Well we were kind of like, not the antithesis to the grunge thing—it’s more of a matter of timing. In fact, we were around a couple years before that burst forth on the national zeitgeist. In fact, we would see a lof of those bands in the same clubs that we played. I played at a club called Raji’s in L.A. a bunch of times, and then I saw that club on the back of Nirvana’s first album Bleach. There’s a picture of them performing at Raji’s. So it was all kind of bubbling under, and then it just kind of took over for a while. You had big bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, other bands who got notoriety like Mudhoney. They had all been around a while. Then a few years later, we were kind of lumped in with some of the other 90s bands who weren’t quite as angst-ridden, bands like Better than Ezra, Hootie & the Blowfish, Matchbox Twenty, all these bands who had just been touring around the same time. So for me, in terms of changes, a lot of the big changes came close to later in the 90s, when everything changed and went either hard-hard-hard rock, or obscene hard-hard-hard pop. And for me, I was kind of glad to see the whole major label game disappear because, as their influence became a lot more…unable to shake off—the music got kind of worse. You had the emergence of things like Britney Spears and Fred Durst [Limp Bizkit] at the same time. You know, it’s just not my cup of tea because musically they were both so extreme. This music fits comfortably into this box. I call it “McDonald’s Music”, in that it’s designed to be eaten, and crapped out, making room for the next musical Big Mac. And there’s a place for that—that’s fine, but that’s not why I wanted to play music. I always wanted to be a more creative person, take a chance with styles, learn new ways to perform, and ingratiate those. I didn’t want it to be just one thing continuously over and over and over again. But that’s me.

K: Sure, that’s some truth about the industry. And yes, there’s a consumption element to it all, that maybe wasn’t there when music was more pure…

Continue reading Cowboy Mouth Interview

This Week in Music History (May 28th-June 3rd)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

Oops I did it again5/28- On this day in 2000, Britney Spears topped the new millenium’s album chart with Oops!…I Did It Again. The album sold 1,319,000 copies in its first week and went on to reach No.1 in thirteen other countries. To date, it has sold over 20 million copies.

365447-large5/29- On this day in 1942, Bing Crosby recorded the Irving Berlin song “White Christmas” with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Crosby’s version is the best-selling single of all time, with sales to date topping 50 million.

Beatles5/30- On this day in 1964, The Beatles‘ single “Love Me Do” reached No.1 on the US singles chart, the group’s fourth US No.1 in five months’ time. Although the single was originally released in the United Kingdom in October 1962, it did not become a hit in the United States until 1964.

114141-large5/31- On this day in 1977, The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced a ban on the new Sex Pistols single “God Save the Queen”. Although the single reached No.2 on the UK chart, the BBC declared it to be “in gross bad taste” and considered it to be an assault on Queen Elizabeth II and the monarchy. Lead singer Johnny Rotten, however, explained, “You don’t write ‘God Save the Queen’ because you hate the English race. You write a song like that because you love them and you’re fed up with them being mistreated.”

32093-large6/1- On this day in 1968, Simon & Garfunkel went to No.1 on the US singles chart with “Mrs. Robinson”. An early version of the song was featured in the film The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffmann and Ann Bancroft. It was then re-recorded to be released as a single, which went on to win the duo a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

7400-large6/2- On this day in 1984, British duo Wham! had their first No.1 hit with “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”. The song was written and produced by British musician George Michael, who was one half of the duo. Michael’s inspiration for the song was a note his Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley had left for his parents which read “Wake me up up before you go go”.

13293-large6/3- On this day in 1967, soul legend Aretha Franklin hit No.1 on the US singles chart with her cover of Otis Redding‘s hit song “Respect”. Although the two versions were musically very similar, Aretha’s version added the famous R-E-S-P-E-C-T chorus and backup singers’ refrain of “Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me…”

Find these musical gems in our CD marketplace, and own your own pieces of music history! Every album purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC. :-)

Interview with Paper Bird

Mark Anderson was a really great person to chat with earlier this year on the Murfie Podcast. He plays percussion in Paper Bird, a harmonious seven-piece band that’s gaining more and more national buzz each day. Here’s a transcript of our interview, and another chance to dig in to the interesting world of up-and-coming music.

INTRO: This is Kayla here, with your Murfie podcast, right from murfie.com: the world’s largest used and new CD store online. So, one band that I’m really diggin’ right now is Paper Bird. They’re a seven-piece indie folk band from Colorado. I had a chat with one of the band members, Mark, right after they released their new album, Rooms.

[MUSIC: “As I Am” by Paper Bird]

Kayla: Alright, so right now I have Mark on the phone, from Paper Bird. Where are you calling from?

Mark: I’m just calling from my apartment in Denver, Colorado.

Kayla: Ok, yes, I saw that you guys are from Colorado, and I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard a lot of great things about that place. So, are a lot of people in the band from Colorado, originally, or did you guys end up there?

Mark: Um, most of us are from here, originally. Some of us were born other places—like Sarah, my sister, and I, were born in Ohio, but moved here when we were really young—and then a couple of members were born in Texas. But all of us say we’re from Colorado—it’s where we grew up.

Kayla: Right—it’s your home, totally! You and Sarah are brother and sister—I did not know that.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. There’s another set of siblings in the band, too: Genny and Esme are sisters.

Kayla: Oh, awesome! That’s fun.

Mark: Yeah.

Kayla: How did you all meet each other?

Mark: Well, we’ve known each other for a long time—it kind of was a culmination of coincidence and then also just like, common interest. Like, we all moved to Denver—um, god, I don’t know, we’ve lived in Denver for a long time. And I think just like, through random acquaintances, and some people through school and things like that, a loose group of us started getting together—and then music is what pulled us in farther, and slowly our friendships culminated into the band, and we’ve been doing it for like, six years now.

Kayla: That’s the best way to get started, you know—the music brings you together, the common interests. And you guys have developed a really unique sound, because basically everybody in the band contributes to writing songs and that sort of thing; so is that how it usually works? Do you guys kind of come to each other and say, “I have an idea for a song,” and then do you work on it together?

Continue reading Interview with Paper Bird