On its first album in more than a decade, Tom Tom Club returns to the dance scene in tight musical form. The husband-wife duo of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, of Talking Heads fame, offers six original new songs and six dubstep remixes and instrumental versions of those same tracks on its sixth studio record, Downtown Rockers.
Musically, Downtown Rockers serves as a much-needed filler in the wide-ranging void that is the modern dance scene. Every instrument can be heard and enjoyed throughout, giving the album a sense of authenticity and modern relevance. At the same time, though, the lyrical weakness of Downtown Rockers feels like filler in itself.
“Won’t Give You Up” has a glorious retro funk with synths that sounds like lasers shooting “pew pew!” while the horns simply drive “You Make Me Rock and Roll.” The Latin influences in “Kissin’ Antonio” make up for the inane story, but the song marks the album’s downward slide, lyrically speaking. “Sweets to the Sweet,” the weakest track on the record, follows, opening with creepy lyrics of “Please little girl, eat your carrots and peas” amid a repetitious bass line. “Love Tape” is the most EDM of all six new songs, and yet, manages to feel the most outdated due to its tape deck references.
The title track “Downtown Rockers” serves as the thematic centerpiece of the album. Its crunching guitars are a welcome aural touch on the dance floor as the band namedrops Velvet Underground, Modern Lovers, New York Dolls, Patti Smith, the Ramones, Television, Suicide, Blondie, Richard Hell, John Cale, the Cramps, B-52s and more before concluding, of course, with the Talking Heads. And after some “nah nah nahs” in the chorus, Frantz and Weymouth harmonize, “I remember you.” It’s boldly self-aware, but a slightly depressing in a deep-seeded, nostalgic way. Kind of like the whole album, really.