Tuesday, October 22, 2019

CD Odyssey Disc 1310: Confidence Man

Sorry for my prolonged absence, dear readers. I’ve been busy as hell and putting in a lot of late nights. But enough of such mundanity. Let’s talk music.

My last review featured one of the top ten albums of 2017. This next record did not make my top 10 for 2018, but that’s only because I didn’t know it existed until a couple months ago.

Disc 1310 is… Confident Songs for Confident People
Artist: Confidence Man

Year of Release: 2018

What’s up with the Cover? Sugar Bones and Janet Planet sit in chairs composed of shadow people, likely the band’s other two members – Clarence McGuffie and Reggie Goodchild. Yes, you read that correctly – half the band perform under whimsical aliases. I’ll let you decide which half.

How I Came to Know It: I heard this through a clerk in a local record store. It was great stuff and so I started searching for the CD, finally locating it last month in Portland, Oregon.

How It Stacks Up:  This is the band’s debut album, so there is nothing to stack it up against.

Ratings: 4 stars but almost 5

An early hint of what to expect from Confidence Man is their Wikipedia listing, which indicates that co-band leaders Sugar Bones and Janet Planet are responsible for “vocals and dancing.” If you think that’s a sign that dancing is intrinsic to the music, well, it is.

Confidence Man is a mix of dance pop and electronica, with a healthy dose of live drum and keyboard thrown in. Not exactly my usual style of music but forget all that; this music is catchy as hell. You will want to dance. I’d be tempted to even challenge your ability to sit still while listen to this, but it just seems like a cruel dare.

Instead, I encourage you to get up and move as Mr. Bones and Ms. Planet regale you with groovy tales of sex, dancing and cool parties. That’s about the extent of the subject matter of these songs which are fun-filled romps through a carefree life. The worst thing that happens is an unfulfilled desire for bubblegum and a (soon-to-be) ex-boyfriend who doesn’t ‘reciprocate’. Take for that what you will.

Sugar Bones and Janet Planet (so fun to type these names) take turns on lead vocals, sometimes singing but often doing a groovy half-rap over top of the world’s best dance beats.  Sugar Bones channels Right Said Fred on “Don’t You Know I’m in a Band,” a song about how awesome it is to be in a band. Janet Planet has the sixties beatnik swagger of the Shangri-Las’ Mary Weiss. This is particularly true on “C.O.O.L. Party” a song that sounds like a modern update of the Shangri-Las classic “Sophisticated Boom Boom.” If you don’t know “Sophisticated Boom Boom” I encourage you to check it out, because it is one of the best party songs ever written – and so is “C.O.O.L. Party.”

C.O.O.L. Party” lays out a detailed narrative of the party of the year, from the initial invite, to the search for beer and drugs, through to the inevitable dancing (first with coat on, then – when the party warms up – without.). On “All the Way” a couple meets, cheats, breaks up and then moves back in together because they can’t afford to live on their own. Don’t worry, though, Confidence Man makes even a tragic love affair into a lively adventure.

More often the songs eschew storytelling for great grooves structured loosely around a concept or image. “Catch My Breath” is about trying to do just that (replete with ‘aah-aah-aah’ sounds), and “Bubblegum” is a song about casual yearning, described by Janet Planet thusly:

“I wish I had a boy that talks so sweet
I wish I had a boy to let my parents meet
I wish I had a cotton candy beat
I wish I had a room with an ensuite
I wish I had…I wish…I had
Some bubblegum”

Lyrics aside, this album is a masterwork in beats and grooves. It is the kind of thing you want to hear at every party, or at every nightclub; its middle finger firmly up to anyone who’d rather listen to slow-building house beats while staring at the floor.

There is no shoegazing to be found on “Confident Songs for Confident People” – these are songs to throw your arms and hips into with enthusiasm. To see how its done, I encourage you to check the band out live on Youtube where they demonstrate that the whole “dance and vocals” claims on the bands Wiki page are not empty threats. These two can really cut a rug.

As fun as that experience is, you don’t need to see Confidence Man to enjoy the music. The songs are laden with an infectious natural energy that belies their sometimes techno-based production.

Because of my busy week I ended up listening to this record five or six times over before sitting down to review it tonight. I never got tired of the music. If anything, it helped let building stress slip into the background. This is fun record with its tongue planted firmly in cheek but make no mistake – this is some of the best damned dance music out there.

Best tracks: Try Your Luck, Don’t You Know I’m In a Band, Boyfriend, C.O.O.L. Party, Catch My Breath, Bubblegum, Better Sit Down Boy

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