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Judi Chicago ignites Bright Lights, Fun City 

Atlanta’s dance haus group gets Dada with it

Judi Chicago's second coming, Bright Lights, Fun City, sidesteps the primitive, sample-laced house mutations of the group's 2008 debut, X 1,000,000, mashing up tongue-in-cheek Dada pop stylings with obtuse songwriting. Under the direction of producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, the Constellations), long-standing duo Ben Coleman (voice, guitar, keyboards) and Travis Thatcher (voice, sax, knobs) – along with their latest addition, drummer James Joyce – craft a catchy and complex dance floor soundtrack. "We wanted to explore what we knew we could do as musicians, producers and songwriters," says Coleman. "Working with Ben Allen encouraged us to experiment with more overt pop structures and melody, which we'd previously eschewed in favor of dirt and enthusiasm."

The disc opens with "Fun City," a dance floor odyssey that is the most rock and roll thing JC has ever conjured. But the real growth shines in "Cold Cuts," "Bad Spell" and "Skellington," which come together in a chain of hallucinogenic verve, fusing the groove-oriented styles of Brit pop and rave exports from the early '90s. "Bullet" and "Degenerate Son" teeter between experimental rhythms and a traditional guitar/bass/drums approach, respectively. And Allen's sophisticated revision of "Mad Ape" from X 1,000,000 underscores just how much Judi Chicago has evolved.

"Burger Hole" is a disturbing mantra that, like Devo's proto new wave classic "Mongoloid," resonates with a discomfort-as-art aesthetic: "The song was inspired by a hole in the sidewalk across from Walter's shoe store near Five Points," Coleman explains. "I can't work out why it's there, but it's quite deep, and it's the perfect size for someone to insert a burger. This led me to the idea of feeding it, putting a burger in there every day and coming back to find it has gone. Of course, Atlanta has cars full of people endlessly shoveling crap into their mouths as they drive from trough to trough, so why not feed the streets, too? 'Burger Hole' could be your mouth or your ass, it's all the same. Really, I'm glad it makes people feel uncomfortable. ... I do like a good burger, though."

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