Scritti Politti

Anomie & Bonhomie

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Scritti Politti finally delivered their fourth album, Anomie & Bonhomie, in the summer of 1999, nearly 15 years after their third. Such a long wait almost guarantees some change in the music, but the strange thing about Anomie & Bonhomie is how the updates -- rapper cameos, vague house beats, grunge guitars -- sound as if they're pasted over backing tracks from 1986. Not necessarily a bad thing, but disconcerting, since the heart of this album is squarely in Cupid & Psyche 85 territory. Green Gartside still creates unabashedly fey, unapologetically smooth pop, sprinkled with hints of soul and dance. Green's high, thin voice takes some getting used to, as does his aesthetic. He likes melodies, but he likes surfaces and textures even more, particularly if they're manufactured and polished. That was the very thing that made Cupid & Psyche 85 irresistible, at least to post-New Romantic new wavers, and parts of Anomie & Bonhomie work on that same appealingly slick level, since Green has a talent for constructing hooks and sounds. They don't necessarily add up to full-fledged songs, yet the feel is always right -- a light, persistent groove, swooning melodies, and a sense of twee sophistication. That's why the contemporary flourishes don't fit -- they're forced, and Green is at his best when he makes it all seem easy, no matter how intricately constructed his music is. Subsequent spins let Green's talents float to the surface, particularly on the luxurious "First Goodbye," the dancefloor opener "Umm," and "Mystic Handyman." If the album winds up succeeding on the strength of soundcraft instead of songcraft, that's the way Green works. While it may not be worth an extended wait, Anomie & Bonhomie ultimately remains faithful to the sophsti-pop aesthetic the band pioneered in the mid-'80s.

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