That awkward moment when a virtual electro-pop troupe puts out a better record than most pop stars in the past year.
“Meet” the Studio Killers, an entirely virtual group hailing from Finland, Denmark and the UK represented by four animated characters: Goldie Foxx, Dyna Mink, Bi-Polar Bear and superdiva lead Chubby Cherry, a voluptuous super diva armed with a big booty, glossy lips and droopy, mascara-coated eyes that put Avril Lavigne‘s game to shame.
Unlike The Gorillaz‘ more complex, concept-driven rock releases, the Studio Killers’ mission statement is a bit more ‘to the point’: To get people on the dance floor — and then laid repeatedly afterward, according to Cherry. But this isn’t cheaply made, reductive party music by any means. It’s all solid, cleverly crafted dance-pop with punchy personality and an unusually confident swagger for a debut.
In fact, it’s the lyrics in particular where the Studio Killers shine: Often hilarious and always unexpected, the band ditches the typical “poppin’ bottles” club shtick and those insufferable YOLO-pop anthems in favor of much weirder, sillier stuff to sing about.
The group’s lead single, “Ode To The Bouncer” (which managed to top the Dutch and Finnish Charts in 2011) is a hysterically fierce, fresh anthem dedicated to the muscle man blocking the entrance into Chubby Cherry’s escape to Clubland. “It’s freezing out here…I’m not wearing trainers — not to mention knickers!” she pleads, with all the cheeky ‘tude of a Luciana throbber. Later on, Chubby lets loose with all her funky disco diva might above glittering, Ecstasy-infused synthesizers: “Let me in or I’ll get physical with you / I just got to dance right now, it’s critical to do!”
The album explores a whole range of dance, touching on plenty of influences: “Eros and Apollo” sparkles with just the same, sunny synth-pop euphoria that Kelly Rowland‘s classic collaboration with David Guetta “When Love Takes Over” provided, while “Who Is In Your Heart Now?” bounces along with a kind of lush, hazy ’80’s sheen of Empire Of The Sun, while “Funky At Heart” is a direct love letter to the House music circuit, full of big, noisy beat breaks. But it’s those lyrics, once again, that make this one a cut above the EDM cliches: “Love it ain’t easy, and lust ain’t no Nietzsche / Papa don’t preach me / You oughta know that it’s hard to find gold in this crap disco.” Amazing.
“Flawless” suits its name pretty accurately, as Cherry lovingly coos atop a hypnotic show of sparkling synths, quickly draining into warped vocal stutters that Ellie Goulding would love: “How can you be so flawless?” she purrs on repeat. It’s the only actual line of the song, and yet somehow, it works. “All Men Are Pigs,” on the other hand, triumphs with its sharp-tongued sass above funky disco rhythms which sound like a cross between Scissor Sisters and Sneaky Sound System: “This is no fairy tail / Every single male that I’ve met, ’til this day, had a curly tail,” Chubby laments.
For a little bit of a Caribbean-meets-Mediterranean flair, there’s the steel drum-infused latest single, “Jenny” — one of the record’s best offerings. What’s Chubby Cherry up to now? Oh, just some slight obsession-fueled theft. “Jenny, darling, you’re my best friend / But there’s a few things that you don’t know of / Why I borrow your lipstick so often / I’m using your shirt as a pillowcase.” Oh dear, Too bad that the song — with drifts along on a groove similar to Edward Maya‘s “Stereo Love” — is too danceable for Jenny to file that restraining order.
With its tales of casual stalking, making out with robots, bouncer bitch fests and good-for-nothing men, the Studio Killers record is as danceable as it is quotable — and certainly one of the year’s best surprises. That the band is born of Internet anonymity, in the age of Facebook, live-tweets and Instagram selfies, only makes them all the more intriguing.
‘Studio Killers’ was released on June 14. (iTunes)