Downtown 81 

Various artists

No, it's not Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "White Lines." It's the original "rare groove" track by Liquid Liquid. No, it's not Wednesday at MJQ or Trashed at Lenny's – unless the DJs are digging (or downloading) deep for tunes that so many of '04-and-on's dancey rock acts seem to profit from. Downtown 81 is the soundtrack to Jean-Michel Basquiat's film of the same name, and within it you can hear BCBG and the foundation of hip-hop, see tight-and-shiny styles give way to dark and loose, and feel the high of cocaine and the creep of crack. Warhol's pop has given way to a grittier, graffiti-laced artscape, the disco and punk days have dimmed, and the politics of change seeps into everything. Downtown 81 makes you wish for the experience of being alive in NYC during that time. The CD will make you dance (Kid Creole and the Coconuts, "Mr. Softee"; James White & the Blacks, "Contort Yourself"), think (Tuxedomoon, "Desire"; Coati Mundi, "Palabras con Ritmo") and zone out (Suicide, "Cheree"). At its best, Downtown 81 does all that. 4 stars.


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