Review: Tuxedo

March 11, 2015

It’s fairly obviousm even to those of us who weren’t even a flicker in the eye at the time, that Tuxedo’s debut album comes straight out of the 1970s and ’80s. We’re not talking about embarrassing paisley suits or pinstriped pants though. This is funk-soul even Chic and Prince would be proud of. The funk and disco revivals, thanks in no small part to Daft Punk and Mark Ronson, are alive and well – and here’s another excellent effort to add to the batch.

Tuexdo are, essentially, a supergroup of sorts. It’s LA singer Mayer Hawthorne and Seattle-based producer Jake One – whose credits include 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and De La Soul – going back to the roots of the hip hop that’s native to them.

It’s not exactly a brand-new project. The pair released a self-titled three-track EP in 2013 marketed only by other artists on Twitter, but are back with a full length album that’s not groundbreaking, but a hell of a lot of fun nonetheless.

With Hawthorne involved it’s not surprising that the project evokes vivid imagery of the ’70s – that’s his métier, despite not being born until 1979 – but what’s excellent is that One manages to modernise the sound while keeping its daggy-but-cool authenticity, and not flooding it with showy overproduction. It’s beautifully simple. Perfectly funky melodies over cooing vocals that might as well be Earth, Wind and Fire make it easy to listen through without that feeling of overkill.

Admittedly, had this been around three decades ago perhaps we wouldn’t be shouting its praises so emphatically. The lyrics, while totally appropriate for this kind of music, don’t particularly carry much weight. In fact, you barely listen to them until your third repeat of the record, and even then you really have to concentrate. Hawthorne’s voice is brilliant as per usual, dripping with soul – but it does lack the exhaustive range that makes funk sound so exciting.

At 47 minutes, the album tiptoes on the line of becoming slightly repetitive and too uniform to be interesting, but just pulls itself back with its diversity, mixture of new and old and downright irresistible horn sections. Also, a remix of Snoop Dogg’s Ain’t No Fun – transformed into a disco, falsetto-laden jam – throws any predictability or mendacity out the window.

So the words won’t have you pondering your existence anytime soon – I’d be surprised if you can remember many even an hour after a first listen – but combined with the unforgettable melodies, addictive instrumentation and slick production, it’s an impressive debut record and an exciting start for the duo.

‘Tuxedo’ is out now.

Watch: Tuxedo – Do It