Felix da Housecat: Devin Dazzle and the Neon Fever

Felix da Housecat
Devin Dazzle and the Neon Fever
Emperor Norton

Those of us who spent the '80s watching action figure advertoons and siphoning quarters into Arkanoid may lack a real awareness of how that era's nightlife operated. But hindsight has blessed (or cursed) many a twentysomething club-goer with hazy fantasies of a decade when Don Johnson clones and replicant Daryl Hannahs made pilgrimages to the Hacienda in coke-money Testarossas. It's difficult to confront that decadent age from our current standpoint without the lenses of kitsch and sleaze--just ask your garden-variety electroclash also-ran. But house music veteran Felix da Housecat stealthily plays against the genre's expectations even as he puts the '80s under a garish macroscope.

Devin Dazzle and the Neon Fever is, on a superficial level, a concept album about a well-meaning guy corrupted by nightlife, with ladette delinquents and malfunctioning sexbots thwarting his attempts to remain sane and sober. The antagonistic sport-fuck enthusiast who sings on "Hunting Season" comes on like an XX-chromosome Vince Neil, bragging about her ability to sucker in boyfriends before ditching them like last night's emptied mini-bar bottles. And yet those unlucky guys' fate is decidedly better than that bestowed by the dildo-thieving punk-rock girls of "Short Skirts," who reveal that the quickest way to break a man's heart is to leave high-heel imprints on his spine.

The album is fueled by the kinds of beats that drive people to undergo these insane courting rituals: "Rocket Ride" and "Everyone Is Someone in LA" provide the perfect soundtrack for a Liquid Sky/Desperate Teenage Lovedolls double feature where the reels get mixed up. "Ready 2 Wear" boasts a polished Pet Shop Boys insouciance and the most detached reading of the line "You are a star" ever put to record. And the galloping discoid nu-wave of "Nina" sneaks in a rockabillied riff on the Top Gun theme that floats like Repo Man's alien-possessed Chevy Malibu. Rock-think reactionaries may dismiss such paeans to synth-pop and electro as wink-wink cheese food for retro ironists, but Felix knows better. Born in Detroit, raised in Chicago during the '80s, he has consolidated his coming-of-age experiences into a shimmering dance-floor roots record.

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