JULY: What’s Your Pleasure – Jessie Ware

Let’s just get one thing out of the way. Disco is one of the finest forms of pop music. I don’t even want to hear an argument otherwise. But it gets a bad rap. The old ‘disco sucks’ chant still rings in the ears after all these years.

(Cue excuse to repost my own recent disco mix that begins with the ‘disco sucks’ chant https://soundcloud.com/mondopop/disco-demolition)

It’s light. It lacks depth. It’s silly. It’s throwaway. It’s too female, it’s too gay. It’s not the ‘real’ music of boys with guitars (thanks Men on the Internet for your views).

Obviously, this is a view of such reductive idiocy, it’s barely worth debating. if you can’t find the genius in a Roisin Murphy or a Robyn album, then maybe you don’t even like music. If you aren’t moved by ‘I Feel Love’, then maybe you don’t even have a pulse.

Actually, that’s what I like most in a disco track: emotion. Not just to want to dance, but to feel *moved*. And boy, is there plenty of that on this latest offering from our Jessie. Spoiler alert: I ABSOLUTELY FUCKING LOVE THIS ALBUM.

I loved Jessie Ware’s first album, Devotion, which cut a classy nu-soul vibe that felt like a Sade throwback. But I lost my way with her a little, and found her second and third a bit lacklustre, and treading the same path.

I chose this album without hearing it for the AOTM on the back of some really stellar reviews, and from Gay Twitter (or at least, Gay Twitter that I follow anyway…) losing their shit on how good it is.

They weren’t wrong. This is a major reboot which finds Jessie W rejuvenated and raring to go. Working with former Simian Mobile Disco stalwart James Ford, they mine the musical past in search of nuggets, and they nearly always come up with gold.

The most obvious influence is Italo-Disco and House of the 80s (and I LOVE that shit). The title track could be a lost classic. But it’s enormous fun hearing all the influences that went into the melting pot of this record. Opener Spotlight is a smooth opener that could easily be late Kylie. Ooh La La is total Nile Rodgers-era Duran Duran. Soul Control and Read My Lips are 80s soul-disco in a Gwen Guthrie ‘Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent’ style.

And then the other obvious shadow on this album. No, not Roisin, it’s not as left field as that: I’m talking about Robyn. And I’m thinking specifically about her last album, Honey (a former AOTM wasn’t it?). Check out Save A Kiss – it could easily sit on that record:

The big questions is – do all these influences turn into something new? Does it feel as fresh and as contemporary as Robyn manages to sound? Honestly – well maybe not quite. It’s certainly lyrically pretty obvious and at times quite trite, which fits the vibe but doesn’t offer that emotional connection that Robyn so often does in her work.

But it doesn’t feel like a throwback record either. I was thinking of Daft Punk’s behemoth, Random Access Memory. Having deconstructed disco and funk in their early work, that album felt more like a more simple homage. I know it divided critics but I LOVE it. This album reminds me of that a little, in that it feels like a love letter to that music, while being very much its own universe.

Of course, the real test will be – will I stick this on at a party? And will I still be listening to it in a year? I don’t know yet, but I’d take a guess that I will be.

What’s Your Pleasure? Mine’s certainly this album.

14 comments

  1. whyohwhyohwhy

    Really good choice David. For a few reasons (for me).

    Firstly, I came into this without much knowledge of Jessie Ware. I’d listened to things she’d done, I recall hearing of her, but having had a quick look through her back catalogue, I realise why it didn’t really land. It’s just not. My. Music. I’m sorry, but while I do have a soft spot for great female pop and voices, right the way back from ABBA’s monster synths and guitars as a kid through Kylie (the later years), and into the 00s with those you mention: Robyn, and of course my musical hero, Roisin Murphy (from right back in the early Moloko days), Ware’s previous output just isn’t my thing. It’s classy, well produced, but it’s what – if I was being uncharitable (which i’m not mostly) I’d call ‘Radio 2 music’. It’s very nice, but it’s just not my thing. As you know, give me Disco or its descendants, and i’m happy as a pig in the proverbial, which is one reason I love Roisin to the ends of the earth, and why, when I first heard one of the tracks from this – I think Spotlight – I thought HANG ON, what’s this?!

    So yes, my interest was immediately piqued. And then I listened a few more times, and it immediately felt so accessible, so bright, so pleasurable (natch) and everything I like in slick, modern disco-influenced pop music. Ware’s voice is really good – though almost in that ‘too good’, not ‘raw’ enough maybe – and it works so well with this sort of shimmering, glassy pop. Once I’d listened I wanted to again, and now, 5 or 6 runs in, I find I’m being more drawn to the songs than them tailing off. And given who’s involved, it’s not hard to see why. Many of my electronic music loves – James Ford from SMD, Joe Mount from Metronomy, Midland, Benji B – and you can feel the production quality here. There’s really not a loose sound, or a lazy note, but perhaps what it has in slickness it loses in a bit of wobble. I do like things to be not-quite-perfect (back to Roisin, eh).

    What is interesting is why Ware went this way now. Perhaps it’s less mass-market, but I like her choice. I’ts not easy to change tack when you’re older – let’s be honest, the music industry is not very forgiving of a woman as she ages – but Ware seems to be a good person and quite unattached to the fame (or wary and realistic with it) which is hard not to like. But given previous remixes (I’m thinking Disclosure’s of Running) it seems an obvious direction.

    Of course the elephant in the room for me is Roisin Murphy, who I WORSHIP. It’s unfair to compare the two – different music, characters, plus Ware’s a collective effort, with Murphy very much her own person and direction. Perhaps you could say that Ware is the safe side of the coin to Roisin’s discombobulated, wonky, brilliant electronic pop and dancefloor stylings. But I can’t rid it entirely either.

    Having said all that, it’s a great album on first listen and there’s so many influences, nods, homages, that I need to listen more to form that lower-level reaction, but great choice. What a contrast to RTJ4! I suspect the reaction will be mixed,…..

  2. nolankane706

    I love disco. I love people that make disco. But is this disco?

    First and foremost this album is fantastic from a production point of view. I love the composition. The rumbling synth bass throughout and the strings. The majority of the tracks are catchy and easy to approach. I fully get why David has so much love for this album.

    I had this album on repeat on the car for a few days when I was making the hour commute to and from work. The more I listened to it the more I started to question it. Who am I listening to? It started to become more Kylee and less the old disco that I love or more recent stuff like Crazy P. What started as an instant like, started grating on me. This album is too polished.

    With the want to like this album, I then went back and listened to her previous albums. I really couldn’t get into them or her. I then went further back to when I first heard her on the first two SBTRKT albums; I still liked those songs thought she wasn’t the stand out vocalist on each of those albums.

    Jessie Ware can sing. There is no doubt about that. There are some songs that I bought into her more than others. I like ‘Step Into My Life’. I like ‘Mirage’. But all the songs just fall into each other and don’t jump out at me. I think it’s great that she’s made an album like this but it’s too polished for me. I get why people like it and I admit that I may be a bit of a purist with this but I don’t buy her on this album.

    So what’s my pleasure? Something more than a middle of the road album I suppose? Crazy P it is then.

  3. misterstory

    Ok. I feel that I am missing something after reading David’s write up. Then I read Guy’s and I think I didn’t miss anything. Then I read Nolan’s and had to go back to David’s. And now I am back to the start and feel like I’ve missed something. So. I have decided to run through a few more times tomorrow and then write more. But I will leave you with this … I think this is the first time we have 2 AOTMs, in consecutive months, with tracks with an identical title … Ooh La La anyone?

  4. misterstory

    I’m glad I took a few more spins through this before writing-up my thoughts. I am always conscious of some of the writing skills of my fellow brothers. For this reason I am not going to compete or event try to emulate … I think in bullet points and naturally write in bullet points and therefore, this is how I am going to communicate my thoughts!

    – I love David’s automatic and un-provoked defence of disco! Wow. That was surprisingly aggressive for a vegetarian 🙂

    – I don’t ‘love’ disco. I do absolutely love some disco music. I think it is possible to love disco and hate this. I also thinks it might be possible to hate ‘disco’ and love this. But to Nolan’s point, is this even disco? It’s obviously massively disco influenced. But some tracks, if heard in isolation you’d be hard pressed to call them ‘disco’. It’s dance-floor inspired pop and the dance-floor in turn is massively inspired by disco. But I don’t think the genetic link is a strong as is suggested by our good-fella-brother David.

    – So what the fuck is this? Who is it for? Who is it by? I am not really sure if I know the answer to any of these questions.

    – I think I quite like this but I am not drawn to it. I’m not finding myself ‘reaching’ for it when I put some music on. I have found myself diligently working with it as it’s our AOTM and you know, ‘for the brothers’. In doing so, I have enjoyed this more than i thought I would.

    – But less discuss the ‘feels’. I am all about the ‘feels’. David referred to himself as a ‘pop being’ the other day when recording the pod and I did think to myself, what kind of a being am I? I think I am a ‘feel’s being’. As such I was interested in David’s comment about Disco and Emotion. I agree, great Disco is all about the emotion. But this doesn’t make me feel … well … anything. I am not offended by it. I do think it has admirable qualities but it does leave me feeling a little cold. It’s almost that I don’t believe it.

    – So let’s chat about Roisin … this album really makes me want to listen to Roisin. The singularity of her brilliance is clearly missing here.

    – Track 11 and 12 – WTF!?! This album is clearly 2 tracks too long. Without them it would have been 10 tracks, 40 minutes and would feel so much tighter as a result. Track 11, The Kill, I can kind of find a redeeming feature … but Track 12, Remember Where You Are – Is this from the Moana soundtrack? I am sure I’ve heard this on a Disney Soundtrack. No. No. No. Why do people water down their albums with such starkly inferior material. It makes me grumpy.

    – In summary, I probably like this more than it sounds like. But I do think it’s cold and mechanistic … and not in a good way.

    • whyohwhyohwhy

      I am ALL ABOUT THE FEELS Joey. I’m hugely down with that statement. Because we’ve all listened to an album that’s good, tight, polished, slick, melodic, sparky, but it doesn’t have the feels. You’ve sent me enough really good music (hip-hop especially) that’s just never quite landed. So I hear you.

      I’m not sure I get the feels from this either, but I DO hear tracks coming back to me, because it’s clearly so well written and well made and well sung. It is never going to grab me the way Crazy P or Roisin would, but that’s ok too as it’s not really trying to be that either. And yes, at times it does feel a bit ‘music by committee’ and you wonder where Ware’s personality is in all of that…. but, but… it’s a very well made piece of modern pop music, and while I’m not David, I’m a big pop man, (and dance, and guitars and…) so I’m appreciating it for what it is.

      ‘Quite aggressive for a vegetarian’ – that’s your Tinder profile @davidhallison.

  5. David Allison

    Also, what the FUCK is wrong with Tracks 11 and 12?
    Track 12 is an uplifting soul-flecked closing number that totally channels The Rotary Connection/Minnie Ripperton. I love it!

  6. Pingback: We’ve done a podcast | This Is Not Happening

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