Detroit Grand Pubahs Madd Circus Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A party-starting fourth LP, with almost every track primed for the dancefloor.

Noel Gardner 2010

The legions of producers who have upheld one of Detroit’s major musical legacies by creating sleek, clubbable electronic music can, for the most part, be placed in one of two categories. There’s the techno icons – the pioneering ‘Belleville Three’ of the early 80s, Jeff Mills, Drexciya et al – whose music tends to carry weighty concepts and (arguably justified) self-importance. Then there’s booty bass and ghettotech supremos like DJ Assault and DJ Godfather, whose pacey electro mutations are embellished by lyrics about sex and the body parts used therein. Detroit Grand Pubahs, a Motor City duo, would be deemed by many to sit in the second category, thanks to their best-known moment – Sandwiches, a cult hit from 2000 which employed some admirably goofy food/fornication metaphors.

Yet it bestowed on them a certain novelty status which, you sense, they’ve been attempting to wriggle free from since. Madd Circus, their fourth album, may not prove a total success in that regard, but it has many superlative moments across its lengthy running time. You certainly couldn’t accuse Paris the Black Fu and Mr O of a faceless cyborg act: from the sleeve onwards (which does admittedly bring Insane Clown Posse to mind), there’s a twisted flamboyance on display. Like Prince in his pomp, DGPs are more than willing to camp it up, but Breakfast in Bed and the brief No Hoes in My Studio assert that they’re all about the female form.

Insofar as the pair cook up killer, minimally-minded electro jams for fun, Madd Circus is a party album, with almost every track primed for the dancefloor. Yet there’s a chill at its heart, and a sense of doubt and misgiving which recalls Green Velvet’s anthem of narcotic rue, La La Land. Their titles act as signposts, but the gloom pervades on Autotragik and NUmb Deaf & DUmb – the latter sounding like it was created on the European mainland 30 years ago. It’s only right at the end that Madd Circus loses the plot, though – in the form of the title-track, a bizarre and unsuccessful attempt at jump-up drum’n’bass. Hit the stop button and you have a pearl.

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