"Pleasure & Romance"
(International Deejay Gigolo Records)
The female-fronted band, an archetype so familiar in rock, gets reborn as an electro-dance group with XLOVER. The parallels with mainstream studio-project-turned-band Garbage are innumerable, though XLOVER benefits from being far less ambitious.
A tongue-in-cheek narcissistic 'tude pervades on this international outfit's debut, aimed straight at the dance-floor grinder and porn-documentary markets. Pleasure & Romance conjures a kind of sinister Euro-club world where anything can happen, but it's a product of studio vets. Bryan Black, a former engineer for Prince, teamed with Parisian drummer Olivier Grasset on remixes for industrial legend Throbbing Gristle and his solo effort, Haloblack. While recording a Prince cover as a single, the project turned into a full-blown band, and singer Nina Rai and guitarist Scott Fairbrother joined up.
Rai's untrained voice is nothing special, but she switches between talking, cooing and near-rapping naturally enough, and the contrast between her bedroom whispers and the throbbing bass lines enlivens many of the tracks.
Sleak, primal electro beats and synth squawks make up the minimally constructed tunes as XLOVER rifles through styles. "Sex Rebel" runs the '80s through the filter, playing off a sampled New Order bass line and guitar lines nipped from the Cure. "So Blue" is prettier, lush downtempo stuff à la Goldfrapp, while "Lovesucker" and "Sex or Head" bite from Peaches's naughty lyrics in the Berlin-rocker style. The buzz-saw guitar—infused "Faking It" comes off like an explicit version of a minimal Ministry while "U" is a naked homage to the classic era of lustful disco.
The scandalous lyrics ("If you spread your legs a little, I'll kiss you in the middle") are good for a giggle—maybe more after a drink or two on the dance floor. XLOVER opts to not make the connection between its background music to desperate pleasure-seeking and anything worth remembering in the morning. Pleasure & Romance is a freaky one-night stand, breakfast not included.—John Dugan