IN "GENIUS OF LOVE," its dance club hit of a few years back, Tom Tom Club said,
"Who needs to think when your feet just go." And a great many recording artists and producers seem to subscribe to that philosophy, cranking out scores of mindless, albeit moving, dance hits.
But thinking isn't necessarily antithetical to dancing. Here's a handful of smart new dance records that give the brain something to do while keeping the body busy:
WORLD DESTRUCTION -- Time Zone (Celluloid 12i CEL 176). An inspired pairing: the Zulu Nation's Afrika Bambaataa and defunct punk's John Lydon (nee Johnny Rotten) collaborate on a cartoon about the rush toward the end of the world that manages to be simultaneously menacing and funny. Bill Laswell's Material production team backs Bambaataa's gruff street preaching and Lydon's shrill warning snarl with the apocalyptic sounds of bombs bursting in air and a stomping metal beat borrowed from Kraftwerk. "Kaboom!"
FIVE MINUTES -- Bonzo Goes to Washington (Sleeping Bag Records 12i SLX 666-18). Another collaborative one-shot, by Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison and P-Funker Bootsy Collins, with lyrics credited to "The Gipper." The sly synthetic funk of "Five Minutes" should produce a sweat even if you're not dancing -- it revolves around President Reagan's terrifying gaffe: "We begin bombing in five minutes" -- and the Bonzos splice it, scratch it and unsubtly hammer the message home. Wicked fun.
FANS -- Malcolm McLaren (Island 90242). For his latest thematic extravaganza, pop svengali Malcolm McLaren has fixed his fickle gaze on opera. Poor Puccini is probably spinning in his grave. McLaren's "Madame Butterfly" somehow weds the ethereal aria "Un Bel Di Vedremo" to an earthy beatbox rhythm, with an irreverent 20th-century plot capsulization bubbling merrily over the top. The idea doesn't quite make it over a whole album, though, and few of the other operas chosen, with the exception of Bizet's "Carmen," survive the rude roughhousing they get from McLaren's crew.
AVE MARIA -- West India Company (London 12i 882 024-1). One more wild hybrid -- a traditional hymn crossed with Indian music and electropop. And you can dance to it. This 12i EP is a cult hit in London but may prove too arcane and otherworldly to catch on here. Vocalist Asha Bhosle's eerie spiraling wail is surrounded by ex-Yaz man Vince Clark's glittering electronic pyrotechnics. Inspirational.
WOTUPSKI -- Jellybean (EMI MLP-19011). In which one of Manhattan's top mixmasters -- John (Jellybean) Benitez -- tries to make his own kind of music. Quincy Jones he ain't, though, and Benitez winds up sounding like a little bit of everyone he produces. Benitez rounds up a bunch of faceless studio pros and comes up with five faceless electrobeat tracks. Exception -- the jumpy, sassy "Sidewalk Talk," penned by girlfriend Madonna. The hit "The Mexican" shows off some exotic percussion, but wears out its welcome at nearly nine minutes.