Much has been made of the expansive height of the taller half of the English DJ duo Groove Armada. Andy Cato measures in at somewhere between 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-10 (no one seems to be able to agree on this urgent matter), apparently making the 26-year-old the tallest man in dance music. Tom Findlay, the other half of the funky fleet, is shorter, but only by a few inches. They're both good-looking -- one blond, one brunet -- and yeah, you guessed it, they're brainy too. Tall, handsome, smart DJs from England a Madonna magnet if ever there was one.
So it comes as no surprise to find their first British hit, the perfectly crafted big beat anthem "If Everybody Looked the Same," included on the soundtrack to Ms. Ciccone's latest movie, The Next Best Thing. The song also appears on their own album, Vertigo, just released stateside, and it turns out Madonna's not the only champion of Groove Armada's eclectic hip-hop/acid-jazz/soul-funk blend: Elton John (who bought 200 copies of Vertigo to give as Christmas presents last year) and radio DJ/TV presenter Zo&emul; Ball (a.k.a. Mrs. Norman "Fatboy Slim" Cook) number among their high-profile British fans.
Groove Armada's first U.S. single, the engaging dance-floor number "I See You Baby," recently managed a smattering of airplay on mainstream rock radio, thanks to a beefed-up Fatboy Slim remix. With a hook catchy enough to make even the most prudish music purist sing along ("I see you baby/ Shakin' that ass/Shakin' that ass/Shakin' that ass," delivered androgynously by rapper Gram'ma Funk), it's not only hilariously cheeky but booty-shakingly good. A warning, though: "I See You Baby" isn't the most accurate representation of the album, which hopscotches through at least six low- to mid-tempo dance and lounge styles, with only the common thread of '70s funk and Armada's penchant for smooth trumpet solos to hold it together.
Still, more often than not, the boys strike a perfect balance between lots of fresh ideas and the virtue of brevity. Beautifully constructed pop songs such as the soulful and sophisticated "Your Song" and the peachy slo-mo ballad "At the River" are both charming and convincing. The latter's nostalgic sample of Patti Page (she of "The Tennessee Waltz" fame) singing "If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air/Quaint little villages here and there," wrapped snugly in a lush '50s-style chord sequence, is one of the album's highlights. Funkier than Basement Jaxx, snappier than Underworld, more musically versatile than Prodigy, and taller than the Chemical Brothers, Groove Armada is on a fine course to conquer America's dance floors and chill-out rooms.
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