Saturday, July 5, 2003

It's always a faboo party with the Cooler Kids, Sisely Treasure, left, and Kaz Gamble.

Catchy ‘Debutante’ packs
pop dance with disco fluff

The great thing about pop dance music is that it knows no boundaries. From your Radio Disney girl to the club kids, gay or straight and all points in between, retro to electro -- if it's catchy enough, any party or club will explode in sweet surrender to the right song.

"Punk Debutante"
Cooler Kids

One of the "funnest" floor-packers that's currently sweeping the country is "All Around the World (Punk Debutante)," by the duo of Kaz Gamble and Sisely Treasure, a k a Cooler Kids. It's an appealing little dance ditty, a sparkling piece of big-city night-life artifice generously sprinkled with candy-colored disco fluff. The Cooler Kids are the poppier version of the late Deee-Lite, and more akin with Kylie Minogue.

They also sound a bit like another music group that's come and gone, the all-female Luscious Jackson -- which isn't surprising, since former member Jill Cunniff co-wrote and co-produced all of the songs with the Pop Rox studio production team on the Kids' debut album, released just this week.

Brooklynites Gamble (DJ Kazimir of the hip New York multicultural dance band Si*Sé) and Cunniff were working on the project's beats, and if it wasn't for an unsolicited and enthusiastic fan e-mail from Californian Treasure to Gamble, Cooler Kids would've never been born. Treasure brought the right look and voice to complete the mix.

"The beauty of this record is that it's so layered," Cunniff says in the duo's press release. "It's easy to just put it on and hear the light, fun quality of the songs. But if you listen carefully, there are some incredible nuances. We used modern and vintage sounds, with '80s electro and funk heavy in the mix."

That's why "Punk Debutante" has instantaneous cross-generational and broad audience appeal.

You can hear some early Madonna ("Lucky Star" and "Holiday," in particular) in songs like "Morning Star" and the "superbad disco" of the escapist funk fantasy "Bali Hideaway." The confectionary "E Is for Everybody," "Sugartown" (with its uptown shuffle jive) and the Donna Summer-"Last Dance" tribute, "The Last Summer," are examples of what perfect dance pop should sound like.

The Cooler Kids make fun dance music.

But the nuances Cunniff mentioned can be spotted in the bulk of the songs on the album: "Viva La Fever" has some adult heat to it, with a catchy chorus and Treasure's layered and phased vocals. The seductive "Sha La La (Wake Up Next 2 U)" is a canny combination of Treasure's whisper of a voice cooing over foursquare thumps.

Things get a little more serious with the Cooler Kids toward album's end. "Hook Up" speaks of more serious coupling, as Treasure addresses her special heartbreaker as "you're the one who rocks me all night long." The final listed track, the ambitious "Blue Nile," drenches us with liquid l'amour, mixing up some synthesized chordal heaven with earthy percussive beats.

But it's the hidden track on "Punk Debutante" that is the most intriguing. A minimalist, electro version of "All Around the World" puts Treasure's colder and raspy vocal track over an old-school mix of classic Bronx breakbeats and Kraftwerk-inspired blips. It's the end of the night, and all the colored Varilites and the mirror ball has been shut down, leaving us to look at each other under the naked glare of fluorescent lights.

But there's always tomorrow night.

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