There’s been a bit of the predictable knicker-twisting going on in certain familiar quarters regarding dear old Azari & III. The tiresome argument questioning the necessity of an ’80s/early ’90s house revival, the yawning rallying call of the bored and cynical ‘hasn’t this all been done before’ is enough to dampen anybodies rainbow before we’ve even started. The answer is, yes it’s all a bit Frankie Knuckles but when has that ever been a bad thing? Now off you go to tell Django Django we’ve already heard the Beta Band…
For anyone who doesn’t really care if their music has been created by aliens who’ve never listened to any records ever made in the history of the modern world, though, Azari & III should be a thrilling, exciting prospect. A hydra-headed beast of dark disco fused together like the Wheelers from Return to Oz crashing through the drag balls of Paris Is Burning. Listening to Azari &III provokes harsh and opaque waves of nostalgia for a time you’ve only ever seen captured in magazines and scenes that were written about in auspicious tones in liner notes of groundbreaking albums, it has a comforting placebo effect on the consciousness that is irresistible.
As pretentious as only a collective with a vocalist called Starving Yet Full can be, they’re the musical definition of air-kissing your way through a bloodless fashion party, sunglasses firmly intact. Although don’t let that put you off, because what makes Azari & III so vital is their burning pop sensibilities. Witness opener ‘Into the Night’ with its plinky keyboards and lyrics that are just made to be squealed into someone’s sweaty face at 5AM, it acts as a much needed shot of Vitamin D in these dingy endurance test days.
The album unfolds in a metallic sheen at once enveloping you in its breezy house beats like the irrepressible ‘hands in the air’ euphoria of ‘Reckless with Your Love’ before unleashing the chromatic, claustrophobic violence on tracks like ‘Manhooker’ and ‘Indigo’. It’s like they’ve crammed the whole gamut of a big night out into 13 tracks: from the polite, drink sipping, clothes conscious frugging to the tearing your ears off, flailing about, sweat drenched and sunlight mocking invincibility. They do it all and they do it so neat and efficiently, it‘s like they were concocted in a laboratory one night by a bored Prince.
They may not be heralding the arrival of a brave new world of dance music but when the old one still manages to sound this inspiring and exhilarating it would be churlish not to reply with your feet and just enjoy the ride.