Red Lips

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With Red Lips, French disco pioneer Cerrone attempted to recapture the innovative sound of his '70s and early-'80s work after his productions had devolved into mind-numbing, by-the-numbers Euro-disco by the 21st century. All of the instruments on Red Lips were recorded live in the studio, with drumming by Cerrone himself in lieu of programmed beats, and guitars, horns, and keyboards rather than sequenced electronics. In some ways, it's Cerrone's Random Access Memories. Like that album, guest vocalists abound, including Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor, Disclosure collaborator Brendan Reilly, and Canadian dance-pop singer Kiesza. All of the songs are relentlessly upbeat, radio-ready four-minute dance-pop songs (rather than the side-long prog-disco epics of Cerrone's classic early albums), and the cheerful, escapist lyrics are almost entirely about love, dancing, or both. The only exception is "C'est Bon," a politically charged let's-all-get-along number sung by retro-soulster Aloe Blacc. Certainly the musicianship and arrangements are impeccable, but even with differing vocalists, all of the tracks are so similar that it ends up being as tedious as the producer's later work. Nile Rodgers' unmistakable guitar playing appears on "Illuminate Me," but he might as well have played on every one of them. The lyrics reference James Brown and Michael Jackson on first single "Move Me" and Beyoncé and Kanye West on "Ain't No Party (Like Monday Night)," but when Sam Gray sings "Let's go supernatural" on "Time Machine," you question if he's even heard Cerrone's immortal signature hit "Supernature." The only song on the album to break away from the formula is closing track "2nd Chance," which features drumming from Afro-beat legend Tony Allen (best known for being a crucial part of Fela Kuti's Africa 70). It's easily the most refreshing, exciting track on the album. By all means, if Red Lips inspires a new generation of club kids to become Cerrone fans, more power to them, but it's simply not one of his better albums.

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