The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Also: Death From Above 1979, and Unclassics: Obscure Electronic Funk and Disco 1978–1985.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

(Hollywood)

Compiling a soundtrack doesn't require an encyclopedic knowledge of music, though you wouldn't know it lately. Quentin Tarantino, who unearthed zinging flamenco flourishes for Kill Bill, Vol. 2, and Sopranos creator David Chase, who remains deeply involved in the show's song selection, are the only current soundtrackers who consistently rival Wes Anderson. Rushmore introduced Anderson's brand of seemingly mismatched tracks, with incidental music by Mark Mothersbaugh (formerly of Devo) as the glue, that on closer inspection revealed the disc as a British Invasion tribute. The riskier Aquatic includes five David Bowie songs covered by Seu Jorge, a Brazilian troubadour virtually unknown in America, plus a few tracks by equally obscure Norwegian composer Sven Libaek. These picks aren't stunts: Jorge's "Life on Mars?" takes the song in a gentler, more melancholy direction—and sounds, intriguingly, as though it was recorded inside a tin can. The other tracks follow rock logic. Bowie produced the Stooges' Raw Power and Iggy Pop's solo Lust for Life; hence the Stooges' "Search and Destroy" is included here. Devo begat Mothersbaugh; ergo "Gut Feeling." Aquatic has a sideways cohesion reminiscent of mixes by people who own too much vinyl, yet Anderson's methods are more collaborative than, say, Tarantino's: Where the latter auteur raids his own record collection, Anderson uses cast suggestions. In the liner notes, he claims that actor Noah Taylor's gushing praise for Libaek is what got him on the album—proof positive that Hollywood synergy isn't always such a bad thing. NEAL SCHINDLER

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979

You're a Woman, I'm a Machine

(Vice)

The name of their group will likely give Toronto-based drummer/vocalist Sebastien Grainger and bassist/synthist Jesse F. Keeler plenty of headaches from literal-minded border guards (Grainger's birth year was tacked on following the inevitable cease-and-desist letter from the New York production duo the DFA). But if their album is anything to go by, the duo's intentions are more lascivious than lethal. Over 35 riotous minutes, DFA 1979's economy produces a lot of compensatory energy—Keeler in particular sounds so overworked on tracks like "Turn It Out" that you can picture the blood splattering onto his fret board. But as the songs show off their gushing little hearts, as well as their other organs, Vice's latest signings reveal some unexpectedly wholesome sentiments. When Grainger sings "Come here baby, I love your company/We could do it, and start a family" on "Romantic Rights," it's like dribbling ice water down the pants of the testosterone-charged rock and roll party of the rest of the album. Suddenly, DFA 1979 have exposed themselves as In a Metal Mood–era Pat Boone's bastard offspring, with lyrics ranging from sincere odes to monogamy and baby making ("Little Girl") to come-ons offering dinner and dancing but no nookie ("Sexy Results"). It's more of a perplexing development than an unwelcome one, and it certainly boosts the album's replay value. If Grainger and Keeler's plan is to use catchy rock tunes to Trojan horse their way into American homes, seduce our women across the border, and use them to breed an army of universal health care advocates with dual citizenship, they'll get no argument from me. DAVE MORRIS

VARIOUS ARTISTS/MIXED BY MORGAN GEIST

Unclassics: Obscure Electronic Funk and Disco 1978–1985

(Environ)

Usually, compilations formulate disco as an American music of the late 1970s, connected in our collective cultural memory to now-questionable fashion and a nightlife that, if tantalizingly hedonistic, could also be bland in its mass appeal, particularly in reruns. But Morgan Geist has re-created disco in his own image. On Unclassics, Geist excavates the forgotten hits and not-quite masterpieces of disco's diverse late period. This is the music's international era, at least compared to its earlier American days; while three of the 12 tracks come from the Canadian Pierre Perpall under different aliases, there is also a resurfaced Latvian gem (Zodiac's percolating, arpeggio-driven "Pacific"), and the bulk of the tracks are Italian. Despite the preponderance of Italo-disco as a subgenre, the collection is stylistically wide ranging. The opening "Disco Special" by Discotheque is the music's platonic archetype thanks to its melodic bass line and hand claps; Plastic Mode's "Baja Imperial" and Margaritas' "Margherita" incorporate Latin influences; the space-electro of "World Invaders" by Perpall as Pluton & the Humanoids could be an early Detroit techno track, while Gaz Nevada's "Special Agent Man" calls to mind the noirest new-wave songs; and the good-naturedly sleazy spoken word of Victor's "Go on Do It" (produced by Alexander Robotnik) emulates early rap and forecasts booty bass. But Geist isn't exactly an elbow-patched professor schooling us on the secret history of the last days of disco. His barely there mixing style belies a false modesty and exaggerates the importance of his selections, which sound remarkably like Geist's own work, solo and alongside Darshan Jesrani as Metro Area. KRISTAL HAWKINS

 
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