Review Summary: punks and champagne
after the well-received if tepid nod he'd given to rome's nuovo romantico era on 2011's rome
, experimental producer daniele luppi continues his sporadic series some six years later with milano
, this time transporting to the city's age of golden excess, a brief moment in the early 80's when both economy, foreign policy and personal freedom reached vertigo-like peaks, creating a (understandably brief) sensation of infinite plausibility. for his second take, luppi's recruited some new old new yorkers to dip their toes into italy's sophisticated swing. electropunkette karen o and rock's most affable slackers parquet courts round off lupi's line-up, turning milano
into a seething show of somnambulist rock.
early primitivist rock n roll that swept over the east coast in the late 70's hangs over milano
's bare spread like a twitchy nicotine phantom. 'soul and cigarette' starts off with precious twinkling that borders on twee, but quickly gives way to lazy and intent strumming, and deepset vocals that smack of early bostonian pioneers like modern lovers and the real kids. elsewhere on the dizzily hankering 'mount napoleon,' the band swing around, pleading for a little ammonia and a bit of cocaine . it's hard to ignore just how much hat-tipping to lou reed's doped-up mutant rock is on display here. but as far as cribbing from cornerstone imprints goes, there are much worse pivots the band could have taken. the beamish keys and distorted sax on 'napoleon' are luppi's only audible contributions to the song, and the album as a whole. rather than annex the lp, he seems happy enough with the players doing their own shtick, and just occasionally splicing in some eurocentric soundscapes to coat the lateral angles of milano
in the root of its origin, a spare tribute to the city's bustling rockette socialite lifestyle of the time.
karen o's nervous energy is a hit and miss point on milano
, and whether she ends up propping up a particular tune or scrambling it largely depends on what instrumental arrays parquet courts lend her. on 'talisa,' they churn their usual tack and it works well, o's agitated vox amping up the pulse. 'the golden ones' is another o highlight, her cheeky promise of 'i can make you wonky' rumbling in your mind over the tireless guitar acrobatics parquet courts build around her. but on tracks like 'flush,' her shrill anxiety butts against the music, creating odd halts that carry less artistic strangeness than simply bad cue timing. still, it's nice to see her back freaking out in the guitar frame, especially since the latter part of her career has been spent vainly flailing in wishy-washy electro pop.
's closer 'cafe flesh' is a high point and another little panegyric to an old new york dignitary. the tune is all sharp piping sax and a rhythm section that refuses to settle into a steady groove, its angled frame more than reminiscent of james chance and his musical contortions. the album's short run (under a half hour), gives it an economy of movement that prevents any of its moving parts from tumbling into excess. it's a short and sweet album that doesn't let either its source material or participants' capacity subvert its simple pleasure.
is both more focused and potent than rome
that luppi made with jack white and norah jones, and danger mouse behind the soundboard; and his choice of cohorts this time around is the prime reason for it. danger mouse's homogenized studio soul, along with jones' sleepy-eyed starbucks jazz sanded off every and any keen angle rome
might have mustered. and though jack white's presence could have recovered some of the album's footing, luppi had caught him in the midst of his attempts to age gracefully, slinking from scuzzy garage into sedate countrified blues worship. all of that rendered rome
a pleasant if unremarkable affair. karen o may be past her prime, but she's clearly got enough of a wild streak left in her to thrash on, and parquet courts have long been establishing themselves as one of the more reliable rock outfits in recent memory. they meld and split and conjure just enough of a mix between personality and affectation, turning milano
into a low key victory, and giving luppi a markedly stronger second entry into his tiered love letter to italy.