Some albums only need three-word reviews, like “fun and dumb.” New York neo-disco outfit Escort’s self-titled debut is both fun and dumb in almost annoyingly perfect proportion. Pieced together from about a half-decade’s worth of material, Escort never appears to aspire to anything other than pastiche, but the glitziest, ritziest, most New Years Eve-iest pastiche imaginable. On tracks like their midtempo, cowbell-draped debut single, “Starlight,” and the percolating “Caméleon Chameleon,” Escort (by most accounts more a collective than a traditional band, boasting a population in the high teens) wears their anonymity like a badge of credibility an invitation to drop in—no, make that sit in—on the friendliest, least exclusive uptown party.
The Escort crew is ditzy enough to sell lyrics like “Give it to me, say it to me, work it with me/If you’re ready, I’m about to pop ah-ahhh-all through the night.” But they’re also either smart or attentive enough to steer their tributes less toward the guiding lights of Hall of Famers whose reputations need no flattery (i.e. Donna Summer, Off the Wall, “I Will Survive”) and more toward the sort of boilerplate disco that allegedly ruined the party the first time around. In something like an act of reclamation, Escort’s string of hustlin’ ditties suggests a reunion of the production-songwriting geniuses that could be found in the houses of Salsoul, West End, and especially Prelude Records. The rhythm guitars and string section interjections of “Cocaine Blues” ride a straightforward bassline with a familiar mix of routine craftsmanship and the sort of efficiency that, long ago, would’ve cut six or seven LPs in the span of one week. The piano explosions that accentuate a chorus of females singing in syncopated unison during the chorus of “Love in Indigo” couldn’t be more reminiscent of Musique if Escort’s singers slipped into a refrain of “Push, push in the bush.” The seven-and-a-half-minute closer “Karawane” is, like some of the best pseudo-ethno disco, only mildly flavored with Latino rhythmic flourishes and African tribal chants.
True, it’s not all resolutely underground. There’s a thin, silvery strand of Giorgio Moroder running throughout “All That She Is,” and the beat underpinning “A Bright New Life” is tres Jacques Morali, pitched just a shade slower than “YMCA.” But overall, the impression left by Escort is much like the feeling of discovering just how awesome Prelude’s back catalogue actually was. No matter how homogenous it all sounded.