Less Than Human


If LCD Soundsystem had a hip cousin who was familiar with robotic rock before Daft Punk was playing at anyone’s house, one would imagine him as The Juan MacLean. After outshining the rest on the DFA compilations, The Juan MacLean release their full-length debut, an album seemingly inspired by what’s beyond the earth, but one that brings the alien inspiration back home for us humans to enjoy. The opening track, “Ad 2003″ builds like the party frenzy of Daft Punk’s intro on Homework, “Revolution 909″, and boasts a bass line that screams Losing My Edge. It’s almost as if they were aware of the comparisons because after the first track, these comparisons are rendered utterly ridiculous. The Juan MacLean are rulers of their own intergalactic plane, studded with space-age synths and sprinkled with meditative beats for those out-of-this-world ascensions.

Not only do most of the songs on Less Than Human belong in outer space, but they also recall other times than the present. “Shining Skinned Friend” is Close Encounters of the Cool Kind, a ’70s sci-fi film score channeling the disco camp of Giorgio Moroder. “Crushed Liberation” is pure ’80s sexuality in the shape of house beats and raspy female vocals. Under the control of The Juan MacLean, the retro sounds mutate into a futuristic vision of what freaky lovers in space sound like when it’s heating up. Mainly, they stick to the outer limits – electronic instrumentals that seem to know no boundaries. “Love Is In The Air” is a slow, contemplative elevation into the happy unknown. The keyboard’s mimicing of a woodwind instrument culminates the song’s perfect whimsy. Yet, it is the songs that thump hard and rough against the earth that please the most. “Give Me Every Little Thing” owns its relentless groove with lusty bravado and keeps the body movin’ with its funkadelic chorus. “Tito’s Way” is raw dance punk with its excessive use of cowbell and party whistles. It’s bass line keeps at a steady strut while the rest of the song breaks into hard-hitting, menacing energy. The album closes with soft, intricate soundscapes. “Dance With Me” moves past the 10 minute mark with quiet expectancy and intermittent swellings of elation as the female vocalist demurely asks if you will dance with her. It’s the prequel to Annie’s “Heartbeat”. It’s before her heart beat like a symphony. It’s the point in time where one hopes that a gorgeous memory will be born, but that memory hasn’t happened yet. These moments are given priority on Less Than Human. Even on those few songs designed for dancefloors, the desire for what has yet to be hovers over the frenetic beats and sultry bass lines. It’s the pre-climatic that contains the most sweetness. If The Juan MacLean realize that, they must be only human after all.

The Juan Maclean
DFA/Astralwerks

POSTED June 29, 2005 12:00AM IN THE TRIPWIRE

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