Through the course of pop music history, disco stands apart as the ultimate “era.” Forever contained in a capsule of dance beats and urban nightclubs and hard drugs taken to dire excess, it’s difficult to fathom disco’s vapid sensibility appearing at any other time in the course of human events.
Pop music evolved. Dance music changed. Disco ended.
While most people dream up scenes from a sweaty New York nightclub filled with tacky golden frills at the mere utterance of the word disco, the movement was, in fact, a global one. Disco penetrated anywhere with a nightclub scene and with people wanting to dance, from Houston to Honduras to Helsinki.
While many laud the Finns (and Swedes and Norwegians, because they love getting lumped together) for their advanced Scandinavian societal values, Dance For Your Life – Rare Finnish Disco & Funk 1976-86 proves that even blonde haired, blue eyed utopia needs a barrel bottom to strive up from.
Difficult as it is to figure out exactly what a contemporary listener might be looking for in a new disco compilation, Dance For Your Life presents a few interesting wrinkles, ranging from the old world/eastern European vibes on Anneli Pasanen’s “Auringonmaa“ to the tropical island flavors of Seitsemän seinähullua veljestä’s “Kaikki kaunis.”
Pop music, which disco is an extreme derivative version of, is a shape shifter, assimilating anything and everything into its amorphous form. There are a few genuine, ’70s psychedelic flavors brought into Marion’s “Syy Täysikuun,” and an exploration of what I can only refer to as porn groove in “Ota” by Piritta, proving, once and for all, that disco identifies with one thing above all others: excess.
My favorite track on Dance For Your Life might be Peak Funktion’s “Freakin’ At The Disco,” which stops audaciously in mid-groove for an explosion sound effect, only to resume as though nothing ever happened. Hats off to whomever these guys were for shrugging their shoulders, saying, “mitä hemmettiä,” which translates loosely to, “what the heck?”
Most of the songs on Dance For Your Life are sung in the compilation’s home language, except a few, most notably Solar’s “Walking Under Moonlight,” but none of these tracks are housing any lyrical gems to speak of. You’re not going to pause the album because you misheard a critical lyric. You can simply hum along, letting loose a few luscious groans here and there in your best pidgin Finnish while shaking your ass.
It’s critical to avoid emphasizing “Finnish” disco here. Instead, the emphasis remains on “disco.” What Dance For Your Life tells us about the era from beyond its grave (a thesis that’s been well proven by now) is that disco was disco the entire world over. The eighteen tracks here don’t elevate the era above what it is, or was, and while the funk here is unique, and perhaps necessary for genre collectors, this disc is limited in scope.