These are trying times for sexy. The borderline between cheeky and blacklisted has never been more vigilantly patrolled. Yesterday's on-the-edge is today's beyond-the-pale and with hindsight, Chromeo's hot-legs gag looks that much closer to the dark side.
David "Dave 1" Macklovitch doesn't attempt to explain or justify the disembodied ladies' legs that stalked the art direction of the Canadian duo's previous albums Fancy Footwork, Business Casual and White Women. But with their new album Head Over Heels, the joke is literally on him and his partner in funk, Patrick "P-Thugg" Gemayel.
"There's no more women's legs," Macklovitch says. "We're using our legs now. We just decided that we did not want to use women's body parts. We wanted to put our money where our mouth was and use our body parts, so it's all us. Our legs, wearing skirts, wearing heels. We're the subject and the object."
The hairy synth enthusiasts suffer for their sins before our eyes in one of the album's first videos, for Juice. That really is them strutting in step in mini skirts, high heels and smoothly waxed pins. And bushy beard, five-o'clock shadow and all, theyre sexy as hell. That's the funk for you.
"With the kind of music we make, there's always some degree of humour and self-awareness," says Macklovitch, who bonded with Gemayel over a shared love of hip-hop at college in Montreal in the mid '90s.
Working backwards from Snoop and Dr Dre to Rick James, Hall & Oates, Kool & the Gang and Parliament Funkadelic, the pair slowly joined the dots on a vast musical map that wasn't exactly in fashion back in the early 2000s.
With their first couple of albums, "a lot of people thought we weren't cool. They thought we were naff," Macklovitch says. "They thought we were cheesy or whatever. Which we are, kind of, but there's a difference between self-aware and just kind of a joke band.
"We're self-aware in the same way Cardi B is self-aware. Cardi B is in on her own joke, and so are we. But we're still serious." He laughs to prove it. "I mean, I wonder if Prince was serious, you know? I know Daft Punk's not 100 per cent serious. Two grown men wearing masks? Come on. But that's the beauty of it. That's the genius."
There are clearly traces of similar genius at work when a Moroccan Jew and a Lebanese Arab manage to make Canadian electro-funk a thing. Australia was among the first countries to get it, Macklovitch says, back in the dark ages of 2007. Their visits here were almost annual for five years, as the world slowly caught on. Now, they're about to grace our shores again to seal us on the delights of the new record.
Head Over Heels features a small army of hip-hop, R'n'B and neo-soul collaborators, from Raphael Saadiq to Broccoli rapper DRAM and one-time Prince guitarist Jesse Johnson.
But it's not just a collector's cabinet of influences; despite his encyclopaedic appreciation for every funky thing from Cameo to INXS, Macklovitch says. "I'm not into the idea of making records that sound like old records.
"I mean, some people do that really well. I love the Dap Kings and all that shit that Mark Ronson does. I listen to that stuff all the time. But I want our records to come on the radio and sound like now."
If that sounds like a pointed rebuke to those who tar them with the retro brush, he is unrepentant. The aim, he says, "is a dialogue between different eras. That's what's interesting to me.
"Music is like a library. You can pick up a book that just came out or you can go pick up a classic. Maybe the classic informs the way you look at things nowadays then maybe the new thing will help you understand the classics. As long as you have a conversation, you're going to feel enriched."
Head Over Heels is out now. Chromeo play Max Watts, Melbourne on July 21 and the Metro Theatre, Sydney on July 22. Details: frontiertouring.com/chromeo
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