Will Schube only dances in the corner.
In 2019, Too Much released a single called “Patent Leather,” a four-on-the-floor banger that bridged the gap between ‘80s Detroit techno and Ed Banger house. My clubbing days are long in the rearview (they never existed in the first place), but according to the duo, their Merge Records-released single “decimated dance floors worldwide.” Tongue in cheek? Perhaps. But the duo of Rich Morel and Ian Svenonius add a knowing wink to all the music they make. Their first LP as a duo, Club Emotion is equal parts a hedonistic joyride to the dancefloors of a bygone era and a slyly critical examination of the silliness inherent in this particular form of drug-addled euphoria. It’s easy to view the project through a parodic lens or form an opinion that the work is excessively lighthearted at best, cynical at worst, but Morel and Svenonius have decades worth of credentials in the electronic world that give Club Emotion its muscle.
Rich Morel has been a household name in the dance community since the early ‘90s, raised outside of Boston but accruing his chops in Washington D.C. He’s done remixes for Mariah Carey, Pet Shop Boys, and Yoko Ono, and started a club night with Bob Mould before accompanying the former Hüsker Dü songwriter on the road. Morel predated the modern renaissance man, the sort of internet bred musician whose willful disregard for genres or particular scenes is a calling card. Ian Svenonius was a member of ‘80s punk band Nation of Ulysses, among a number of other groups in that world. The band released a number of albums through the legendary Dischord imprint, which, in 2020, is distributing the tremendous debut LP from Too Much.
Club Emotion is the perfect album for your indoor summer. The pummeling low-end of your favorite club has been transmuted to your preferred pair of noise-cancelling headphones and instead of $16 vodka sodas may I suggest learning how to make something fancy from your favorite discontinued food blog’s backlogged content. Too Much make dance music for those unwilling or unable to hit the floor. I like to stand in the corner of my house, hands in pockets, and neatly bob my head with enough vigor that my glasses threaten to fall off but never fall below the bridge of my nose. Coming to your nearest TikTok by the time you finish this sentence.
Instead of using repetition and the rhythm section as the core of their work, Morel and Svenonius place melody front and center. On the self-titled opening track, vocoded vocals are backed by a cascading, swirling guitar line and crucially placed notes from a malleted percussion instrument. “Let’s go to club emotion/ Let’s go,” sings Svenonius. It’s silly and sexy, the sort of dancing you do to let your date know you’re in on the joke. “Look at how much fun we’re having!” Verse-chorus structures are atypical in traditional techno, but Svenonius’ rock background let’s the group dabble in the rising and falling patterns of pop-oriented music.
“Lay it on the Line” sounds like a remixed version of the Outback Steakhouse theme song from Of Montreal, but it never comes across as corny. The horns ascend with the power of royal accompaniment and the group’s inherent knack for choruses gives the track and the entire album a repeatability that outlasts any short-lived notions of satire (the word “pussyfoot” is delivered with a particularly sultry drawl).
Elsewhere, like on “Diabolical,” the duo embrace more straight ahead techno, with an interplay of stripped down drums and funky guitar that recalls the heyday of dance-punk acts like The Rapture and !!!. Album closer “I Wanna be a DJ” goes full ballad and still retains artistry. In a falsetto, Svenonius sings, “Mama! Mama!” This is Queen for a broken generation. “When I grow up, I wanna be a DJ,” he nearly cries, and his desperation is so convincing that maybe, after all these years, Paris Hilton was right. Behind the tables, a residency at Vegas, accruing post-Jersey Shore Pauly D money. This yearning misses the point, though.
Too Much are unabashedly obsessed with the transcendent power of music, the role of the DJ as dance floor Rabbi. It’s a communion we’ve lost long ago, one that’s been watered down by cosplaying reality stars and David Guetta chopping up “I Had a Dream” to an empty rooftop. With Club Emotion, Too Much plead for a return to substance, to the joy of a good groove played loudly and the ecstasy of a perfect song at just the right time.