Irony curtain

Electro-funk duo Chromeo claim they’re in their own world of cool. Stephanie Johns digs deeper.

Chromeo have a lot going on. This year's hit album Fancy Footwork launched synth, keyboard and talk-box king P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) and ultra-smooth vocalist and guitarist Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) even further into the private jet-fuelled, champagne-soaked world they've created. Playing at the Marquee on November 10, Chromeo's songs are all about one subject: Ladies. It's nostalgic, but there's enough modern flair to keep your attention. It's a fine balance, but the duo's extensive music nerdiness pulls it off with aplomb.

Gemayel and Macklovitch met in high school playing in a band. These days they describe themselves as "virtuoso musicians, walking hip-hop encyclopedias, and the only successful Arab/Jew partnership since the dawn of human culture." They claim to walk the straight and narrow line of pure, unadulterated funk music and vow they aren't straying into the ironic. On repeated listenings, however, you may discover that the music is as complex as you like. "We have a lot of references in our music, a lot of winks," says P-Thugg, calling on his cell phone. "But you don't need to get them to enjoy the music, it just adds another layer."

She's in Control appeals to music snobs who get the various homages, while simultaneously appealing to your little sister and her friends. The ridiculously awesome reviews may have had something to do with Chromeo's impressive musical pedigree. Dave 1 (older brother of Kanye West's DJ A-Trak) has made beats for hip-hop groups such as Shades of Culture, Dubmatique, Sans Pression, Yvon Krev<0x00E9> and Butta Babees. P-Thugg is an established producer and worked with Toronto's Citizen Kane. The fact that they both lived in the hipster's musical mecca, Montreal, didn't hurt either.

Fancy Footwork follows this trend—just a little more serious in parts, over-the-top in others, and absolutely as catchy. It contains slightly skewed love songs, in the same vein as R. Kelly, and it turns out that Chromeo admire him a great deal, if only for his ability to appeal to such a wide audience despite his shocking lyrics and odd behaviour. P-Thugg says, "R. Kelly is crazy. He had that whole thing with the 14-year-old girl and he's back out writing songs about taking a trip to Uranus. How can he just do that?"

Chromeo's "Bonafide Lovin'" deals with an older man dissing a PYT's younger and lamer boyfriend. "Momma's Boy" chronicles the strange scenario of a girl who has daddy issues finding love with a boy who has mommy issues. Comical, yes, but not unrealistic.

"There's an element of truth to these songs—this stuff really happens," P-Thugg says. "You know when you see some guy in the supermarket or the video store with his girlfriend and he's asking her, "Should I get this, should I get that?' It's like he's with his mom. He might as well be."

Hall & Oates are often mentioned when describing the duo. The good news is that Chromeo's love for them may result in one of the best collaborations of the year. "Were you aware they called us?" P-Thugg asks. "They called us and talked to our agent and said, "Who are these guys? We love their music, we want to write songs with them.' We're totally going to do it." P-Thugg's enthusiasm illustrates how distanced they are from claims of irony. "We're so in our own world of what we think is cool," he says. "We think that Daryl Hall is the ultimate funky singer, and we are so far removed from anything else. When we first started this band we worried about it being too much like a retro band, because people stop being interested in that after awhile. We're glad it doesn't come out completely like that, and that it retains a modern edge."

The edge might not come from the Dire Straits-inspired video, "Bonafide Lovin'," or from their throwback album covers, but that's part of the charm. "Half of what we do is about image," P-Thugg says. Their alter-egos, however, are more complex than what their slick videos and album art would lead you to believe. Dave is currently attending Columbia University where he studies and teaches French literature, and P-Thugg is the band's accountant. So their day jobs might not be as glamourous as the image of jet-setting R&B heroes...all that stuff is hard to focus on when you're dancing your ass off.

Chromeo, Saturday, November 10 at the Marquee, 2037 Gottingen,10pm, $15 (advance)/$25,