Don't Stop the Night

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It was possible to hear a budding provocateur lurking behind Tender Pervert, and its follow-up, Don't Stop the Night, unequivocally puts Momus on the path of his hero Serge Gainsbourg. Musically, it also makes him a full-fledged synth-pop artist, with a strong club flavor (and coolly ironic outlook) highly reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys, who accordingly nominated Momus as 1989's most promising artist. But where the Pet Shop Boys' disco updates mirrored the jaded decadence of the Reagan/Thatcher/yuppie era, Momus went a step further into outright perversion. Song after song features characters using sex to gain power, or vice versa; some are merely quirky, and others genuinely disturbing: a doctor who molests his patients, a guitar teacher who molests his 12-year-old student, a social climber who pimps his sister to the rich and powerful, a necrophiliac, a jilted lover who fantasizes obsessively about his ex-girlfriend masturbating, a couple hoping to get caught making love one more time. While there's a lot of potential for adolescent glibness, Momus' literary bent leads him to flesh out these characters, to give them depth, history, and viewpoints. It's their recognizable humanity that truly makes the album shocking. Overall, Don't Stop the Night is just a little less successful than Tender Pervert; toward the end, the lively club beats disappear, and although the production remains skilled, Momus falls back into old hookless habits -- it's a shame that the music of "The Guitar Lesson" and "The Cabriolet" isn't as attention-grabbing as the lyrics. But for the most part, the record works very well. The synth-dance sound is cold and emotionally disconnected, to be sure, but that's an intentional reflection of the subject matter. Overlooking a couple of awkward hip-hop references, Momus' production is sleek and stylish, an amazingly convincing transformation for someone who'd been a Leonard Cohen disciple just two albums prior. And with its provocatively perverse sensibility, Don't Stop the Night set the tone for much of Momus' best work in the future.

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