Tuesday, August 25, 2009

#128. 'And don't stop'

The Juan MacLean "Give Me Every Little Thing"

Has there ever been a better start to a label's run than the first 10 releases from DFA Records? Two LPs that represented the most outrageous (Black Dice's Beaches and Canyons) and accessible (The Rapture's Echoes, not a great album but definitely an important one) ends of the scene the label was documenting, half-a-dozen 12" or 7" singles from the slim (at this point only 4-band) roster that became calling cards of a sort, putting this miniscule label on the map, a compilation of the A-sides from those singles with a track from each of the LPs. Back in 2003 I downloaded DFA Compilation #1 mostly for the closing duo of LCD Soundsystem's "Losing My Edge" and Black Dice's epic "Endless Happiness," and while those two tracks are still among my favorite things to this day ("Losing My Edge" is the one song I'd consider breaking my one-song-per-artist rule to talk about) the best thing to come of that decision was that I got acclimated to the Juan MacLean's much more overtly house-oriented fare. It also tipped my hand towards thaone release that was not part of that compilation, a split 7" with their "Give Me Every Little Thing" and The Rapture's "Killing."

"Give Me Every Little Thing" wasn't like the two Juan MacLean tracks that had graced DFA Compilation #1. It sounded more like a continuation of the two LCD Soundsystem singles, albeit with a much less sarcastic tone and a much more house-oriented instrumental. Given that James Murphy was providing the vocals here that isn't exactly an unprecedented reaction, but the fact is that it was also better than both the previous Juan MacLean singles. Much as I love them, especially "By the Time I Get to Venus," they can't hold a candle to "Give Me Every Little Thing." It's a pulsing, funky, slightly acidic bit of 00s indie-house, and it spoke to me more than the straight dance music of the other two.

Even in its opening minute, where there's nothing but a repeated synth motif, it's already clear that this is going to be a much darker tune than either preceding JM single. Something about the way the initial chord of each bar washes out over the sacatto chords that follow it, or just the general tonality of the chords themselves, but it sets the stage for the tune's less than ecstatic tone. Once the bassline comes thundering in the song's already become one of the best early DFA singles, but that in conjunction with the heavily reverbed synth drums takes the track to a whole other level of greatness. The synths may have set the mood and prepared the listener, but with the rhythm section there's an actual hook to latch on to. The vocals are incidental and recorded in such a way that it's hard to make them out despite their clarity. Small phrases may push their way through the mix, but most of the time they sound as though they're being recorded a few rooms down the hall form the rest of the song. The effect is clever, as you may not quite get what's being said, but the inflection gives enough away that you don't really need to.

Over the course of the song there's some more overt references to the previous JM works, namely some bloopy keyboard lines, but it really acts as a perfect step into the much, much murkier sound of his full length debut, Less Than Human. The fact that "Give Me Every Little Thing" was reprised there and given it's own 12", one with some great remixes courtesy of Cajmere and Music X-Press, is proof of it's endurance as compared to the earlier singles. Theose were perfectly pleasant, but "Give" was unprecedentedly awesome. If not for "Losing My Edge" this would easily be the single best song to dome about in that near mythically awesome 10 release run that DFA kicked itself off with.

Coming up tomorrow: How a great video can make a great song even greater, part 2.

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