Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue

July 17, 2009

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Bibio's "Ambivalence Avenue" - Warp Records (2009)

Summer of 1979. Chic’s “Good Times” ruled the charts and rightly so. A great summertime anthem about outdoor parties, clams on the half shell, and roller skates.

But what I always found most interesting about that song was the irony that I thought I detected not far underneath its glossy surface. For a long time I wondered whether this might just be my imagination, but Nile Rodgers confirms that the intention was there in this interview. Unemployment and inflation both on the rise, but “leave your cares behind” as the composers tell us. And of course the worst was yet to come ….

Exactly thirty years later, I hear Stephen Wilkinson/aka Bibio’s new album in the same way. Blending together elements of folk, electronic, and even hip-hip and R&B, this is the perfect summer album: breezy, cool, and danceable, perfect for outdoor parties. But what makes the record really interesting for me is the feeling of unease — or should I call it ambivalence? – that seems to lurk just underneath the music’s surface. Profits are up at the big banks, and we’re told that the economy’s starting to get back on track, so “let’s put an end to this stress and strife.”  But why do I still have the feeling that the worst has yet to come?

See what I mean: you can listen to one of the best tracks, “Fire Ant,” from this excellent new album on Bibio’s myspace page.

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