Lindstrøm & Christabelle

Real Life Is No Cool

Here’s where received wisdom about Lindstrøm forgets itself: the slo-mo sophisticate, the long-form disco don has made an instant-hit, Saturday night album that anyone could love. In fact, Real Life Is No Cool offers no other option. It looks you straight in the eye, leaves you nowhere to hide; no theories or poses, nothing tricksy or ‘mutant’ to cling on to in self-defence. Although he’s quietly defined the new disco era through seven prolific years of solo, collaborative and remix work, this is the first satisfying showcase of Lindstrøm’s hi-tech mesmerism in all its variety. It’s also one of those rare, proper dance albums that feel like a fantastic DJ set in which every track is the highlight for as long as it’s on.

Much of this new pace is set by long-time co-conspirator Christabelle, whose playful, subtly hyped vocals ride the rhythms to the last stop before classic pop. Often improvised or recorded at home, her performances complement Lindstrøm’s sleekly monolithic productions perfectly, providing an appealing balance between organic intimacy and digital drive. There aren’t quite any sing-along hits here (not that music hacks can ever spot them anyway) but, lolloping or cantering, Real Life Is No Cool keeps you transfixed throughout.

Lindstrøm’s expanded his portfolio to include some new old elements: hints of Scritti Politti in ’88 (‘High & Low”s sustained swoon), Jones/Jackson in ’82 (the itchy ‘Baby Can’t Stop’) and the kind of handclap-strafed mid-80s club tracks that routinely announced themselves as “fresh”. But with dance music history having been so thoroughly worked over in the last decade, not least by the man himself, dividing the brand new from the retro is all but impossible — even misleading. Lindstrøm’s still one of the best exemplars of refinement replacing revolution on the dancefloor: one of his signature tricks is to take an indelible moment from a classic dance track and work it into a new, authentic world of its own. So while you might recognise the bass spine of ‘Lovesick’ from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s ‘Step Off’ or the O’Jays original, you won’t have heard it lope through digital molasses like this before. He also revisits his enduring muse, the precise point where the giddying strobe pulse of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ takes you into hyperspace, and grants it another gleaming life on ‘Let’s Practise’.

There’s new emotional territory here too. The album’s title is a line from ‘Keep It Up’, its most arresting moment. The lyric alludes to a violent relationship, while the almost overwhelmingly sweet, up-up-up music seems to reassure that no one can steal a joy they’re incapable of feeling themselves. But for the most part Real Life Is No Cool gives you seven shades of state-of-the-art get off your ass and dance, from the insidious syncopation of ‘Let It Happen’ through the metronomic ‘Music In My Mind’ to the cosmic guitar lines drifting through its triumphal closing tracks. If anyone betters it this year we’ll be spoilt.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today