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Gil Mantera's Party Dream

There's good 1980s revivalist new wave, and then there's the, well, other stuff. Such as the cold and detached synth-pop disco of Gil Mantera's Party Dream, a two-man unit that last month saw the release of its third album.

Synthesizer bleeps, blips and drones by Mantera will occasionally remind listeners (if they're lucky) of the experimentalism of Tuxedomoon and the grandiosity of Ultravox, but most of the time, the tinny melodies and drum-machine beats recall the cloying pop of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. The pseudo-ballsy guitar solos by singer Ultimate Donny sadly bring to mind such '80s bloat as Asia.

The result is glossy and artificial-sounding kitsch, buried rather than saved by the fact that it is all so archly ironic. Worse, Donny often croaks the repetitive lyrics through a vocoder effect that causes unwelcome flashbacks to Cher's "Believe."

It's also interesting to note that this record has been released by Fat Possum Records, which until a couple of years ago focused primarily on raw, dangerous Southern blues. Lately, the label has been branching out into garage rock, rural jam music, electro-pop, alt-country and sludgy proto-metal. That's in addition to the herein-discussed take on new wave disco.

Puzzling direction, yes. But one might imagine an apologia that posits Gil Mantera's Party Dream as the faux-naïve roots music of the early 21st century. As if.

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