The Beat’s Alive: Moroder’s Triumphant Return To The Chase

Courtesy of RCA Records.
Courtesy of RCA Records. Giorgio Moroder’s new album is supposed have some interesting guests, including Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue and the omnipresent Sia.

It makes sense to kick off my first column centered on Italo Disco with a brief look at genre pioneer Giorgio Moroder. I know it seems obvious to choose the most internationally popular artist in that mix, but Moroder’s new work is fantastico. (You’ll get Baltimora, Miko Mission and Ryan Paris soon enough.)

Last month, Moroder released, “74 Is The New 24,” and a few months before that, “Giorgio’s Theme,” the former the title track off the septuagenarian’s first official, full-length album of new work in more than 20 years. We first heard “Theme” this summer, but this new single confirms that Moroder’s synthesizer-built disco style, with its vocoder-processed vocals, tight beats, raindrop arpeggios and bombastically emotive chord progressions, is just as fresh as it was when he was at his career peak in the 70s and 80s.

On that note, Moroder’s craft has never been more in style. Even before his featured guest spot on Daft Punk’s 2013 album, Random Access Memories, music scenes of many stripes were buried comfortably in the warm embrace of King Moroder. The time has never been more ripe for Moroder to assert his brilliance.

Like most electronic music veterans with output in their later years, Moroder’s new work adapts his arrangements and style to modern production and synthesizers and samples. Depeche Mode and New Order come to mind as other artists who have released material in recent years that sounds less like themselves in certain ways, just as scores of successors are adopting the spirit of those bands’ most pioneering handiwork. Seemingly every synth-infused indie group out of Brooklyn, Portland or Los Angeles sounds more like Power, Corruption & Lies than New Order does.

Of course that reality is a bit ironic, but it’s also an understandable and obvious fate. Who wants to be doing the same thing for 30 years? Would listeners, outside of devoted fans, even accept a Moroder who used the equipment and production techniques he used in the classic 1978 film Midnight Express. “74” and “The Chase,” from the Oscar-winning soundtrack, sound very much alike — Moroder no doubt is staying true to his purpose in life — but I’m sure some writers dumber or smarter than me would find something to pick apart had Moroder not touched up things a tad.

Moroder is actually 74 years old, and will probably be 75 by the time the record comes out (go Aries!). But these new songs indicate that at the level of energy and creative dexterity in which he exists right now, 74 really is the new 24.

(Editor’s Note: The Beat’s Alive is my new, occasional column focusing on everything associated with the Italo-Disco genre, from the artists and their music, to the culture and history that created them, and anything else that comes up. Because I’m so damn predictable, I got the column’s name from a Glass Candy song. Viva Italians!)

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