Flash Cassette’s new album succeeded at not only teaching me how to make a cocktail, but also at delivering one of the year’s best disco-inspired projects.
Fair warning, this article contains opinion and is marked as such.
Since the start of the century, there has been no absence of great albums using modern instruments to channel the sounds of funk and disco that dominated the ‘70s. To name a few, Datarock released Datarock Datarock, Holy Ghost! released their self-titled record, and Daft Punk released Random Access Memories; which notably featured a collaboration with “Father of Disco” Giorgio Moroder.
It might seem grandiose to begin an article about the underground UK-based duo Flash Cassette with a preamble about these nu-disco greats.
However, when reflecting on 2018 in a few years time, I can’t imagine myself not remembering Flash Cassette’s new album II as a standout.
“Are you ready? Here we go.”
The band’s new album is full of personality in a clear love letter to retro sounds and disco sensibilities. Alongside fantastically funky instrumentation, II delivers enough quirkiness and humour to make it stand out from its peers – without sacrificing the audience’s ability to take it seriously.
From the beginning of the album, we are introduced to the genuinely enjoyable comedic stylings of Adam Hunte and David Kaer. “[Protocol]” is the introduction, serving as a gateway to what’s on display here. It features thumping retro sounds that transition so seamlessly into the next track that it can be easy to miss that the album is underway.
Perhaps more importantly, it introduces the spoken motif that appears frequently on the album. Here, a callous voice delivers lines that are so off-the-wall corny that they would be detrimental if not for their perfect timing and placement.
“Please select the type of sounds you would like to listen to today. I suggest: soothing ambiance,” says the voice. A few seconds later, it delivers the “ultra funk” bait and switch that accompanies the increasingly manic song.
The next song, aptly titled “Long Island Iced Tea,” is perhaps the most creatively straightforward piece I’ve heard in months. Without giving too much away, this is the only song I can credit with teaching me how to make a cocktail. It serves as a testament to how the duo can create severely catchy music that is not afraid of being a little oddball.
“Add a splash of cola”
Flash Cassette are not exactly shy about displaying the same ‘Italo disco’ roots that helped shape many of the records produced by Daft Punk and their contemporaries. While listening to II, it is easy to hear the impressions left by Italian artists like Giorgio Moroder and Kano; an Italian disco act that enjoyed early international success.
The album does a great job of using these influences while still remaining distinct. In addition to leveraging many of the genre’s sensual lyrical themes and desire to serve as floor-fillers, the duo sprinkle in hammy dialogue and retro video game sounds that keep things flavourful.
Credit where it’s due, combining ‘cheesy’ vocal snippets with retro sounds is nothing new – Synthwave musicians have been doing it since the genre’s inception. On this project, however, the Flash Cassette duo are able to present enough personality, humour, and intrigue for me to find myself enjoying their spoken performance almost as much as the songs themselves.
This is only furthered by the use of guest singers on the project. Though I had not heard of them previously, each act won me over with their clear talent.
“According to these papers here, you’re completely human.”
Luke Womersley, Sinclair, and Waiting For Wednesday are all far from isolated on their respective songs. They each have enough chemistry with Flash Cassette to make it feel like they’ve been a part of the band from the very beginning.
“FFS” is a clear example of this collaborative chemistry. The song is similar to numerous disco tracks in many ways, but its overall funk and incredible guitar solo help it earn its place as an extremely enjoyable part of the tracklist.
Where there might be cause to fault the duo, however, is with the general lack of interesting lyrical themes on these collaborative songs. In what is seemingly a trope of the genre, the band discuss fatal attraction on “FFS,” “Doubtless,” and “Waiting On You.” While all three are infectious, groovy, and easy to dance to, I can’t help but wonder if Flash Cassette could have benefited from diversifying the themes of these songs.
In contract, the vocal snippets featured on “[Protocol]” and the album’s skits are extremely interesting, but unfortunately do not make an enough of an appearance. In fact, we do not hear them at all in the entire last third of the album. This is not enough to be a mark against the project overall, but I do wish the band seized the stellar foundation they built in order to reach for something larger.
“Tequila Sunrise” and “Tequila Sunset” make for an extremely grand send-off to a great project. These instrumental tracks take an at-first slow approach that builds towards a final statement that is as funky as promised in the album’s opening dialogue.
Overall, II presents the types of songs where you find yourself singing along to the instrumentals for whatever reason. At times, you won’t even realise you’ve begun dancing until you’re already in the midst of making a public spectacle of yourself.
This album is one of 2018’s most electrifying projects and is unfortunately flying under the radar at the current point in time. Moving forward, it would be great to hear Flash Cassette use their distinct personality to explore larger themes and deliver more quirky dialogue and interesting genre tributes. After all, the duo have more than proven themselves capable with this astonishing sophomore release.