Press play: Lindstrøm & Christabelle Real Life is No Cool (Smalltown Supersound)
Before it became fashionable to throw around the term “nudisco,” lanky Norwegian super producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm was already the undisputed king of the sound, which encompasses as much Italo, boogie and ‘80s electro as it does disco. Wanting to break from his jazzy house productions as Slow Supreme, but lacking a label willing to release his new discoid nuggets, Lindstrøm launched his own, Feedelity, in 2003 debuting with his single “Music (In My Mind).” It was his first collaboration with a wily young vocalist, Solale.
Now, seven years later that partnership has finally come to fruition with Real Life is No Cool, the duo’s full-length effort, with Solale now using her first name Christabelle. Lindstrøm’s productions have evolved well beyond where they started but haven't strayed so far that it doesn't feel like he is coming full circle with this latest full-length.
His debut solo album from last year, Where You Go I Go Too let go of the disco dance tone that first turned us on to Lindstrøm. In its stead was proggy electronica of epic proportions. We still loved the record—but it’s not exactly fodder for a dance floor. Now with Real Life, Lindstrøm has re-embraced his poppier sensibility with shorter—much shorter—productions showcasing the arpeggiated synth lines, druggy midtempo Italo-disco beats we fondly remember plus sultry songwriting from Christabelle. At only three weeks into the New Year, bloggers are already proclaiming it one of the best records of the year. It’s damn good.
Much of the album reminds us of stateside disco phenom Glass Candy. This is not to say that Lindstrøm is cashing in on the popular indie disco outfit. There are ample comparisons between the two. Both are fronted by women whose charm lies in their sexed-up and strong, freeform presence. Glass Candy’s Johnny Jewel and Lindstrøm would both name check Moroder as a crucial influence. Ultimately, even if Lindstrøm did let Glass Candy influence his move back toward a pop style, we’re glad for it. This side of his sound gets us moving.
The steady slo-mo thump of “Lovesick” has our shoulders bobbing early on as Christabelle asks “Can you call it a sound / can you feel the beat / can you listen to it / can you feel my fate?” If this is love sickness, we hope it always feels this good. The brooding dissonance of the duo’s cover of Vangelis’ Italo classic “Let it Happen” sets the tone for the rest of the album. Enticing us to “come and take a ride on the wheel of life,” its syncopated chug and soaring melodies lift us up out of our frigid winter surroundings.
Throughout you can sense the more challenging work that was driving Lindstrøm on Where You Go, as in the edgy pulse of “So Much Fun,” but here, in a pop framework, the tunes are infinitely more dance worthy. This comes to a head on “Baby Can’t Stop,” without a doubt the brightest song on the album. While everyone else is going ape shit for Aeroplane’s remix—and we’re massive Aeroplane fans—we prefer the ‘80s brass-fueled boogie of the original. It’s pure pop gold.
Even the dramatic mood swing of “Never Say Never” is a welcome addition to the album. A downright chaotic number with the beat literally running in reverse, it reminds us that dance music doesn’t have to be all sugar and nice. Lindstrøm may have made his catchiest album yet, but that hasn’t stopped him from challenging our ears.