The Art Ghetto – Slumming

The Art Ghetto

Remember that scene at the end of Sid and Nancy where Sid is dancing in a New York City ghetto to KC & the Sunshine Band (his version of hell or heaven, I think)? That’s probably the closest anyone could have thought punk rock and disco would become a cohesive unit… until now! Actually, no not hardly, but LA’s The Art Ghetto does describe itself as “disco punk,” for whatever that’s worth. The music essentially consists of punk vocals, noisy guitars, and mechanical drum beats. Anarchy in Studio 54 it is not.

That’s not to say that The Art Ghetto and the band’s most recent release, Slumming, doesn’t have its charm. The male/female duo’s best moments usually occur when they have the hooks to back up their ironic detachment (“Slumming,”” Punk Rock”), the cleverness to match their sarcasm (“Nuvo Nippon,” “Power Woman”), or the passion and powerful guitars to justify their anti-corporate/anti-materialism stance (“Protest Song”). Essentially, the band strives to be a variation of the Talking Heads/Devo post-punk/new-wave sound for the new millennium. They actually only come close to achieving this goal on two occasions: “Slumming” and “Protest Song.”

“Slumming” is an insanely catchy (almost Cheap Trick-worthy) raveup about a gutter dweller’s uncontrollably narcissistic urge to be famous. Sung in a mockingly earnest-tone, “Slumming” does a nice job of mimicking the vapid desire “to be famous tonight, out in Hollywood.” “Protest Song,” a propulsive rock track that almost sounds like Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” eloquently deals with the underlying elements of fascism involved in the American media. Provocative lines like “admit that the words you sing are not your own,” “raise your hands and hail the subtle reich,” and “to open your mouth is to cut out your tongue,” are the hallmarks of a truly smart and insightful anthem.

Perhaps someday a band will come along with the unique ability to synthesize the sounds of The Ramones and Chic, The Clash and The Bee Gee’s, or Sham 69 and The Andrea True Connection, but right now, the Art Ghetto doesn’t quite reach that plateau (nor do these folks probably want it). However, on many of the better songs off Slumming, the band creates an interesting mix of anti-corporate politics, rock guitars, and drum beats. Just don’t expect it to sound any better on amyl nitrate.