Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain future, is the 2000 debut album The Polyester Embassy by Australian dance duo Madison Avenue. Will this album be one to Call home about, or is it all just static noise? Read on…
This 15 track CD opens with the This Is Your Introduction, it is moody, and Wylie Jay gives an in-depth spoken word factual definition of the album title like he’s just swallowed wikipedia. His voice is like a syrup, deep and wonderfully suited to the backing track that gently meanders around.
Then Who The Hell Are You (Original Mix – Edit) arrives and suddenly you’re returned to the familiar sound of Cheyne Coates‘ defiant vocals over a thumping beat. The track is catchy as hell, confrontational, and has enough samples of Vernon Burch’s Get Up to make it feel like some disco funk track. The song gave them a #10 UK hit when released as the album’s third single.
Next up is lead single Don’t Call Me Baby (Original Mix – Edit). On first attempt in the UK charts, it got stuck at #30, but 6 months later the track was released again and hit the #1 slot. This time Cheyne’s vocals are more mellow here, reminding me a little bit of their contemporaries Modjo that were hitting the charts around the same time with this soft disco funk sound as the millennium arrived. Again, it’s a catchy track, and once again it is aided by the heavy use of funky samples, this time courtesy of Pino D’Angio’s 1980 track Ma Quale Idea, whose track forms the backbone of this one.
That’s followed by Do You Like What You See (Album Mix), which returns us to a familiar formula – a whooshing sound followed by a thumping beat. This track initially sounds like a slightly slowed version of Who The Hell Are You, but then Cheyne’s vocals hop into action, and they are softer and flitter around the track with great ease. This time, samples come from Jimmy Ross’ First True Love Affair (amazing video!) and it certainly sounds like another Madison Avenue track. It just kind of comes to an end.
A phone is dialled as some sexy French people chat. Clearly the lady is enjoying the conversation. Yes, it’s Edible French Chic and it has a whole sultry sophistication for all of its 1m 51s. It gently wafts out, presumably to a vaseline’d lens.
Then it’s Everything You Need (Original Mix – Edit), and we’re treated to another disco funk laden track. The funkiness is borrowed from Uncle Louie’s 1979 track Full Tilt Boogie. The song doesn’t carry as much energy or catchiness as the previous songs, instead it’s quite smooth and soulful. Sadly, the track didn’t capture the excitement as their previous stomping dance tracks when released as the album’s final single, and it stumbled at #33 in the UK singles chart.
That’s followed by She, which starts off with a reminder not to forget Ajax, dishwashing liquid, fresh milk, ‘ooh, and cat food‘. The percussion, synth strings, and simple bass riff works wonderfully, but sadly this is just a 1m 38 track. The underlying track would have been great as a full track.
Next is It’s Alight (Album Mix), which delivers us right back into funky disco sounds, courtesy of this track’s underlying magnificent bass, beat, and brass from 1980’s Forever More by Tom Browne. Whilst the sampled sound sounds magnificent, it takes a while before Cheyne’s vocals find the perfect spot. They work together well, with Cheyne managing to match the mood of the music. At times it feels like she belongs on the original track.
That’s followed by the rain storm of It’s Very Alright, which sounds like an absent minded attempt at trying to remember a later George Michael song whilst it rains. The track sounds soft and light, unlike the rain, and it lasts a mere 1m 47s.
Next we’re on to What Can I Do (Album Mix), and Gwen Macrae gets the Madison Avenue airing this time, courtesy of her 90% Of Me Is You track. Cheyne’s vocals take on the more sharper tone as heard in Don’t Call Me Baby, but here she’s singing over a pretty mellow track. Whilst it’s pretty chilled, it’s a song that doesn’t really have any big moments, and instead just kind of swaggers along, like a late-in-the-evening house party song.
Fly (Album Mix) follows that and slightly oddly, whilst Cheyne is (like the rest of this album) a co-writer, vocal duties are handed over to two new people – Kellie Wolfgram and Michelle Serret. It feels odd – it’s a completely different style, and sadly the vocals are a bit flat.
It’s ’78 (Album Mix) next, and like Fly immediately before it, we’re lacking Cheyne, this time introducing Pebo Joy on the vocals, over a track fuelled by Pleasure’s 1977 track Joyous. Whilst this song is closer to a real Madison Avenue single track, this song, like Fly, feels jarringly like padding.
The album closes with a mix and two remixes of earlier songs within the album, the first up being Don’t Call Me Baby (The Dronez Old School Mix). This is a more mellowed version of the song with a simple stabby organ chord sound but there is thankfully enough retained elements of the song that it at least returns us back to something familiar. Cheyne’s vocals cut through to take command with those familiar fearless lyrics, helping us forgive the two odd preceding tracks.
Then it’s Everything You Need (Mobin Master 12″ Remix), weighing in at 7m 8s long, and this lures us in with a wash of affected vocals before a thumping dance beat arrives. It takes about 1m 50s before the full slinky disco feeling arrives, but it’s worth the wait.
The album closes with Who The Hell Are You (John Course & Andy Van Remix), with 7m 20s giving us a somewhat of a banger to end the album on. This is heavily reminiscent of the single, perhaps aided by the ‘Andy Van’ being 50% of the duo anyway. Cheyne’s vocals are chopped up to an almost dub level at times, but she’s given the time and space to show off. The remix works a treat with this song and gives the album an energetic and familiar send off.
Over all, this album has some well trod formulae, but it works very well so why bother changing it?
The highlights are very much the two big singles Who The Hell Are You and Don’t Call Me Baby, but these are joined by It’s Alright and Do You Like What You See, which are aided by the use of very well chosen and deployed samples that manage to keep the disco sound embedded in the dance tracks.
The album carries an oddity, in that despite being a duo who are ever-present for the singles, songwriter credits, and videos, new vocalists are thrown in for Fly and ’78 in a seemingly ‘we found this in the record label’s cupboard, so thought we’d throw it in’ kind of way. Whilst the songs aren’t bad, this introduction so far through the album is jarring and I can’t understand why these two tracks made it on the album. Both tracks don’t quite fit here, but ’78 at least carries some echoes of the heavily sampled track style with a dance beat that plays out well elsewhere.
The album is a wonderful source for discovering some truly amazing 70s and 80s disco/funk tracks from the likes of Uncle Louie, Pino D’Angio, Vernon Burch, Tom Browne, amongst others, so thanks to the duo’s Andy van Dorsselaer for that lovely musical education. Definitely check the sleeve notes, and check out those originals.
- POP RESCUE 2022 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2000 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #74
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.49 from a Discogs.com seller.