This week’s Heal Yourself And Move—a biweekly column about dance and electronic music, written by Maryland’s finest, Andrew Field Pickering—discusses the ridiculousness (and occasionally ridiculously awesomeness) of italo-flavored dance jams. Guest appearances by an anthropomorphic rat and Ben Vereen. Check it after the jump.
Alright, to be completely real, I couldn't think of anybody to interview, any new vinyl to holler about (minus the way written about and nonetheless outstanding reissue of the Virgo LP), or any under-researched claims to make about dance music and its myriad incarnations this time around for HY&M. So, like I often do for inspiration, I started darting through my friends' YouTube favorites. Normally I check in on my man C Rob for a specific breed of tune, usually a mindboggling song that I immediately need to hunt down, an overly-Balearic cut I don't quiiiiite like (or, rather, wouldn't play out), or some wild Italian Zoob (I'll get to my concept of "Zoob" in a moment) that I find awful but hilarious. He has been killing me all morning with this shit:
Roland Rat - Rat Rappin' (Extended Mix)
I actually like this instrumental version of this jam a lot. I would DJ it if C Rob would let me borrow it. I should actually just stop faking and grab this on Discogs. I love most novelty "rap" instrumentals, lots of DX and Linn drums and cowbells, twinkly little guitar and keyboard lines, and all sorts of random effects. But the real kicker here is that (sorry British readers, cuz I bet you remember this dude, but this is amazing news to me) there was actually a TV puppet personality named Roland the Rat who used to light kids up when they would phone in, and do other awesome shit like shout kids out who sent in paintings of him or his mainest man, Kevin the Gerbil. Check Kevin out!!! AHHHHHHH!
Radio Band - Radio Rap
Speaking of foreign novelty raps, this shit is vicious as an instrumental too, but I had to link the vid cuz these Italian boogers are going for it so hard, and I respect them. The little girl in particular is doing her thing. According to comments on Discogs, this was played by Ron Hardy at Chicago's Music Box. Another esoteric pluck by the master. I'm a sucker for any song that has a chorus sung by a group of women in another language.
Before I dive deeper into the abyss of awful(ly hilarious) dance videos, I gotta break something down. Ari from Beautiful Swimmers has a serious penchant for some italo, in a way that I can't hang with. When we first started going hard on digging for records, we would roll around in his van listening to mp3s of the CBS Top 100, and every few tracks I-F would announce, and then drop, some gigantic italo bomb that made me cringe. For awhile I couldn't put my dismay into words. Of course Italo is cheesy, that is hardly an argument. "Come On Closer" by Pineapples, for instance (somehow a modern DC classic, BTW) has what should be my least favorite vocals ever but the production and just indescribable VIBE of that jam keep it in my heart. No, in order to describe what I hate about a lot of italo, I had to get creative. Thus "Zoob".
When I think of over-the-top Technicolor dumb shit, I immediately think of the Ben Vereen-helmed TV show "Zoobilee Zoo" that I used to watch after swim lessons in like 1990. Even as I child I was like, "Fuck is this???" but you know, I was seven, and all TV could get watched no problem. Also, my cousin Morgan was into it and she was definitely boss of the remote in 1990. Now, as far as I know, they never bumped Italo on "Zoobilee Zoo" but the visual elements of the show (roller-skating animals vibing to the aesthetic of both Cats and Hair at the same time, plus the circus ragtag costume design and FACE MAKEUP) completely match, in my mind, the audio elements of bad Italo. Thus, upon hearing certain cuts, all of these intangible elements of cheesiness and awfulness coalesce, and I dub a song "Zoob". I can't stand Zoob.
Below is merely a fragment of the Zoob Hall of Shame:
Filipponio, "All' arrembaggio"
Check this motherfucker out! Mugging it like the Italian (maybe a little Turkish?) Stallion that he is turns into putting those arms out like wings and dropping the worst vocals ever. The dub of this song is probably amazing!!
I feel like I should be getting some terrible random e-mail update from a "streetwear" company selling a fascimile of this dudes tank top any minute now. Again, this song as a dub is probably off the hook. That Italian boogie strut is so sick. But the vocals and this visual aid in particular make me second-hand embarrassed. "Youknowwhathappenwhenyoutellmeyouloveme!?" WOOF. I need to listen to some Octave One STAT to get this taste out of my mouth.
Fun Fun, "Happy Station"
It might be blasphemy to some, but man, this song sucks. The "Scratch Re-Mix" is tight in its own little ways, and the video is actually kind of beast, but what the fuck is a "Happy Station" and who knew that Reese Witherspoon's older sister got down like this?
Marcel Folie & Folie Club, "Rap Folie"
Ahh a French take on both Zoob and Novelty Rap. Whoever posted the youtube comment "Mecri pour l'upload!" needs to get a grip.