Playing God
Disco Inferno: DI Go Pop

by now, you know about Disco Inferno. Ignored at the time of its release about a decade ago by all but the most observant critics, DI’s definitive full-length D.I. Go Pop has now been both re-issued and formally embraced by, in some cases, the critics who neglected it the first time around. Chances are, if you’ve read a single one of these critics’ reviews of Pop, you also know about the five singles and EPs Disco Inferno released around that time. You know how these singles were even more fully ignored than the full-length, but that when compiled, these EPs make just as much of a classic album as Pop is.

Well, I agree with those critics on all but one point—that D.I. Go Pop was a classic album in the first place. After hearing the diversity and depth of the EPs, I was shocked at how monochromatic the full-length album was; nearly every song a similar tone with only a few being noteworthy enough to really stand out. And the single mood of the album was viciously cold and alien, powerful in parts but almost unbearably bleak at others. The EPs were often just as bleak, but each balanced out the bleakness with moments of musical and lyrical warmth, and that ultimately made for a far more compelling listen. And what’s more, with only eight tracks and a 33-minute running time—a mere 10 minutes longer than the Last Dance EP—D.I. Go Pop is barely even an LP, closer to a mini-album of sorts. Needless to say, these are hardly the makings of a definitive work.

So what I’ve done here is made an attempt at making Disco Inferno’s definitive work, including the best tracks from the album and the EPs (besides “It’s a Kid’s World,” which was featured on their last album) and structuring it to adequately reflect all the group’s strong points.

1. “Even the Sea Sides Against Us”
I wanted a song to start my D.I. Go Pop that worked the way “Summer’s Last Sound” did to open my CD-R of the five EPs—a somewhat foreboding yet still compelling first glance into the world of Disco Inferno. “Even the Sea Sides Against Us”, one of the lighter and more memorable tracks off Pop, works best to serve those purposes, and is much more enticing than the original album’s sketchy opener, “In Sharky Water”.

2. “From the Devil to the Deep Blue Sky” (Non-album single)
This is perhaps the closest Disco Inferno ever got to a conventional alternative rock song—which is still quite far from Smashing Pumpkins territory, with its gloriously warped production and typically obscure lyrics. But with a legitimate chorus, a catchy main hook, and a four-minute running time, it’s one of the most accessible songs D.I. ever made and a good way to get my D.I. Go Pop in gear.

3. “Starbound: All Burned Out with No Place to Go”
Now for one of the album’s more all-out difficult tracks—the paranoid, chaotic “Starbound: All Burned Out with No Place to Go” with lead singer Ian Crause’s cries about the world shitting on him for far too long getting drowned out in a swarm of maniacal “everybody, everybody” chants and a flurry of clicking shutters. Perhaps the most fascinating song on the original D.I. Go Pop

4. “Love Stepping Out” (from “Summer’s Last Sound” 12”)
Disco Inferno’s first true stunner, this 1992 b-side is unlike anything else they—or anyone else—have ever done. The song is the aural equivalent of being alone at a rained-out Fourth of July celebration, the gentle showers of looped, echoing guitars sprinkling down in a comfortable drizzle, with firecrackers of static going off in the distance. The song goes a step further in its bizarre sound by contrasting the loveliness of the music with some genuinely ugly lyrics about “breaking people’s bones” and “punching women, kicking men…getting all that they deserve”. DI’s greatness should’ve been obvious to everyone after this song.

5. “The Athiest’s Burden” (from Second Language EP)
This disarmingly optimistic sounding minimal synth-pop exercise is used on my D.I. Go Pop as more of a transitional piece than anything else. It has its own charms, but its real purpose is as a buffer between “Love Stepping Out” and the next track.

6. “D.I. Go Pop” (from Last Dance EP)
Is it sad, that 11 years after its release, this song is still the first song I think of when I think of music that sounds ahead of its time? But that’s just how fucking mind-blowing this song is. The sound of “D.I. Go Pop” is something like a Buzzcocks single whose RPM can’t seem to remain steady, constantly spinning faster and slowing down again. The stuttering guitar riff is absolutely mesmerizing, sounding like the group is struggling to get it out as quickly as possible. How the song manages to unearth some really gorgeous hooks out of the mess is just unbelievable. Perversely left off their similarly-titled album, “D.I. Go Pop” remains Disco Inferno’s finest moment.

7. “The Last Dance (Long Dance Version)” (from Last Dance EP)
Back to back with “D.I. Go Pop” is “The Last Dance,” D.I.’s other definitive moment, and their only legitimate pop song. Once again, it’s still not quite right—there’s no chorus and there’s serious melancholy in the lyrics, but if D.I. were ever to have had a top 40 single, this would’ve been it. And deservedly so—with gorgeous jangling guitars, driving percussion and the most heartbreaking lyrics Crause ever penned, it’s truly one of the great singles of the mid-90s. The version I included was the “Long Dance” version, which has a better intro and an extra two minutes of blissful instrumental interplay.

8. “A Crash at Every Speed”
What better to put after this catchy, nostalgic pop song, than the emotional low-point of the original album? With the most bad-ass bass line you’ve ever heard, relentless squeals and howls in the background, and utterly hopeless lyrics, this song is downright frightening and a worthy dark ebb in my D.I. Go Pop.

9. “New Clothes for the New World”
With nothing but a bass-line to anchor it, the restrained frenzy of “New Clothes for the New World” is one of the least accessible songs on D.I. Go Pop, but it’s still significantly lighter than “A Crash at Every Speed,” and the tension makes for a good transition into the next song.

10. “Second Language” (Non-album single)
Not the definitive single D.I. fans tend to make it out to be, “Second Language” is still a nice moment of respite from the previous two Pop songs. Betraying their obvious U2 influence—yeah, listen to that final solo and just try to deny it, haters—“Second Language” is D.I.’s finest guitar epic, a fine climax to the album.

11. “Footprints in the Snow”
I had to keep this, the original album’s closer, as the last track. The only moment of hope or release offered on D.I. Go Pop, “Footprints in the Snow” is indeed one of the loveliest songs of D.I.’s career, its low key shuffle acting as splendid encore to “Second Launguage”’s grandiose closer. I was never a huge fan of the part at the end where the band is asked on behalf of the landlady to keep the music down. Feel free to fade right before.

By: Andrew Unterberger
Published on: 2004-08-17
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