Vav Jungle

Canadiana Striptease

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Eve Rice -- who for all intents and purposes is Vav Jungle -- has musical roots in the same Canadian synth pop scene of the 1980s that brought acts like Rough Trade and the Parachute Club to brief prominence. Like those bands, Canadiana Striptease has a strong undercurrent of polymorphous sexuality (Rice regularly DJs at burlesque shows and LGBT events in her native Winnipeg), leavened with a peculiarly Canadian sense of humor. (True to the album title, the cover art features photos of the female pole dancer equivalent of Dan Aykroyd's old Saturday Night Live character, "Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute.") And although Canadiana Striptease was recorded and released in 2005, there is an undeniable throwback quality to this music. Fat Roland 808-style beats and defiantly retro synth squiggles power these songs; "Televisionles" fashions one of its main hooks out of the sort of videogame-like "ping-ping-ping" effects that last sounded fresh and new when Linda McCartney used them in Wings' live version of "Coming Up" in 1980, set over a shambling acid house groove that would have packed the floor at the Hacienda a decade later. That song and a few others even break out the Vocoder to complete the Wayback Machine vibe. What makes the album work as more than a collection of nostalgia-inducing giggles for aging dancefloor hipsters is Rice's better than average knack for developing pure pop hooks out of the base materials of '80s dance music. "Divorce Yourself" veers into an unexpectedly syncopated dance break featuring a call and response between a roller-rink organ and a burbling, disco-vintage ARP synth that sounds like something out of a 23rd century version of The Lawrence Welk Show. The disorienting, druggy vibe (think The Soft Parade-era Doors minus the pretentious bellowing) of "This Can't Happen" would fit perfectly in the "bad trip" segment of a late-'60s anti-drug film. "Set Me on Fire" makes good percussive use of a telephone's busy signal and a high-speed rapping noise that sounds like a woodpecker on crystal meth, both in support of the album's catchiest melody. But the masterstroke is the utterly glorious "Fake Fur Pile," likely the best undiscovered should-have-been dance hit of 2005, which is a note-perfect evocation of Factory Records in that space between New Order's "Blue Monday" and the Happy Mondays, when New York dance clubs and the U.K. post-punk scene were colliding at full speed. With its deadpan lead vocals and group-chanted "You don't own my fake fur pile" hook over a marvelously squelchy synth-bass riff and vaguely-sorta-Middle-Eastern-or-something synth squalls, practical jokers could convince even knowledgeable synth pop fans that "Fake Fur Pile" was Section 25's follow-up single to "Looking from a Hilltop." It's just that good. As is the rest of Canadiana Striptease, one of the most satisfying indie dance pop releases of its era.

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