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Artist: Escort

Album: Escort

Label: Escort

Review date: Nov. 23, 2011

One of the most exhilarating characteristics of old-school, 1970s disco was its inherent irreverence and downright naughtiness. Who can forget Donna Summer’s orgasmic croon on “I Feel Love”? Or the gender-bending eroticism of Sylvester as he wailed “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real”? Embraced by both the gay and black communities, long the most oppressed in American history, disco was resolutely escapist in its celebration of a hedonistic sex-and-drugs culture. In comparison, some modern disco can come across as somewhat overly determined to “legitimize” the genre, with much genre cross-pollination and impressive, but very serious, dollops of experimentation. Seventies disco was defined by outlandish costumes, make-up, sex and drugs in toilet cubicles, and pop stars singing gay anthems. If the re-edit scene does indeed hone in on the wildly kitsch vibe of their elders, quite a bit of the nu-disco does not, for better or worse, at least not with the effervescence of Escort.

From the opening swagger of “Chameleon” on this, the band’s debut album, they happily embrace the deliberately superficial and ostentatious nature of vintage disco while a slinky drum machine patters away under layers of shiny synths, cheeky cow-bells and a brazen horn arrangement. The song’s central character is a globe-trotting party monster who hops from club to club, seducing everyone whilst refusing to divulge her name or age. It’s a slight and silly concept, sure, but it’s also relentless fun, with singer Adeline Michele inhabiting the role with obvious relish.

The rest of Escort enthusiastically follows a similar vein. The band resurrects the Rev. Gary Davis classic “Cocaine Blues” by adding a four-to-the-floor beat and smooth synth rushes. There’s no ambiguity about coke in this version: This is a celebration of it as the ultimate party drug. “Make Over” is an erotic sex romp with infectious hand-claps, full frontal heavy breathing and funky rhythms, with Michele crooning “Make me up and make me over / Make me high and make me sober” in full disco diva style. I defy anyone not to enjoy it.

Michele is clearly Escort’s engine. Her voice and persona are perfect for the album’s sexy rhythms and cheerful hedonism, and she shows no signs of shame. Meanwhile, producers Eugene Cho and Dan Balis show proper respect for the genre, with not a hint of pastiche. In that respect, they join Horse Meat Disco and Hercules and Love Affair as revivalists who make disco such a fun genre.

Of course, disco was also a genre born primarily from 12"s, not LPs, and Escort offers a glimpse into why. By the end of the album, Cho and Balis’s horns and repetitive beats lose their initial power. There are also a few unwelcome shades of dull, lifeless ‘90s pop that undermine the saucy jubilation of “Make Over” and “Cocaine” (think M People or Des’ree). But, as an homage to everything that made disco so popular in the 1970s, the best of Escort is as good as it gets in 2011.

By Joseph Burnett

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