IF YOU NEED ME, CALL ME: ALBUM REVIEW
When was the last time you listened to synthy, vampire disco from the 1980s? I personally never had before this project, but Emerson’s If You Need Me, Call Me only left me wanting more. The long-lost 1988 album by the little-known singer Emerson made a resurgence with its reissue last year. If You Need Me, Call Me is filled with goofy and creepy jams. It’s a short and fun burst of late 80s energy where Emerson revives the spirit of disco while pushing his own singular vision for the genre.
Behind every song is a driving backbeat laid under creative and bubbly bass lines. The song “Why Are You So Cold?” kicks the project off with an insanely funky bass line and little piano flourishes. A couple of minutes into the track the synths come in. It's the synths that take this album from a typical disco revival album to something completely different. They are as sharp as ice and cut right through the more muddled vocals and basslines. They literally make you sit at attention, and especially on the first two tracks, they are driving forces. The synths also steal the show on the next song “Sending All My Love Out” where they swoop in, significantly louder than the rest of the song to stab the listener in the ear.
Emerson is equally as potent when he slows the music down, like on the song “Nosey Neighbors.” He sings this entire song in a falsetto that glides over the piano backing. Of course, the synth bells are there to chart his vocal course as well. On this song, he sings with paranoia about how his neighbors could be watching him at pretty much every turn. It feels goofy but serious at the same time as he sings on the hook, “and I’m talking about my neighbors.”
There are several things that date the album squarely in the late 80s. The song “Raw Deal Cocaine Kills” is all about how cocaine is dangerous, which I think is significantly more accepted today. Also, there is a lot of somewhat corny talk about friendship and what it means to be a “pal,” which I don’t think would fly today. If anything, these details make the album all the more endearing. The themes seem almost radically simple: drugs are bad and friendship is good.
Behind these simple themes, there is melancholy in Emerson’s voice. Just looking at the track titles, Emerson is often talking about the world rejecting his love. “Why Are You So Cold” and the song “If You Need Me Call Me” both come with the assumption that others are not reciprocating the love he is sending out. The feeling of trying to stay hopeful even through rejection powers much of this project, but it is the feeling of melancholy that pushes If You Need Me, Call Me to be better than other revival disco records. The album feels incredibly honest.
On If You Need Me, Call Me Emerson expertly crafts rhythms and melodies which nearly perfectly fit his odd style. His falsetto floats over the instrumentals and his message of positivity comes across loud and clear. If you are looking for a great quick project to start out your day If You Need Me, Call Me is the one for you.