It seems like the prevailing ethos of Chromeo’s third album, Business Casual, can be gleaned from the ridiculous guitar solo at the heart of “Night by Night.” A cheesy, exuberant tangent, derailing the song and flying in the face of good taste, it’s also just brashly dumb enough. Recalling Prince’s genius for straight-faced, unblinking absurdity, the album represents a more polished delivery of the group’s unusual style, carefully refurbishing and buffing old sounds as if they were classic cars.
Drenched in a kind of recycled atmosphere that’s not as much ironic as wistful, Business Casual grabs these kinds of recherché elements, be they untrammeled sax solos or well-timed triangle strikes, with both hands. But their placement of them is always cautiously considered. Vocoders, talkboxes, and booty-talk breakdowns abound, but they are laid out in such an ordered way as to provide a constant shine, albeit a vulgar one, to the surface of the songs.
To consider the album as anything other than a vacant good time is impossible. Business Casual is transparent and tacky enough that its not becoming insufferable is a triumph in itself. Its earnestness, and the enthusiasm which it presents its reconstituted ‘80s sounds, is even lovable. Even as I write this (with the group’s tremendous Bushmills billboard, which has irked me for months, looming outside my window), it’s impossible to feel any animosity toward the album.
“The Right Type” is pure yacht-rock, with cascading MIDI flutes and a lilting, falsetto chorus. “J’ai Claqué La Porte” invokes the group’s Montreal background through half-spoken French lyrics, something they seem required to do at least once an album. Even opener “Hot Mess,” which is annoyingly slick and dim-witted at times, is impeccably conceived and plotted.
The care evident in these songs’ structures is what eventually saves Business Casual from turning into a joke. It’s the opposite of the method employed by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti earlier this year on Before Today, where washed-up sonic concepts were torn to pieces and spread over garish soundscapes. Here they’re presented lovingly whole and intact, without irony, as keystones to be cherished and admired.