Tuesday, 24 September 2013

#24. Disco In Borneo – The Extreme Sprinklers

Jade McLaren: vocals, tambourine.
Matt Neal: bass, guitar, programming.

Music & lyrics by Jade McLaren & Matt Neal.
Written late 2003.
Recorded at Burndog Studios and Studio Study-o, Warrnambool on November 24-25 and December 20 & 30, 2003, and January 9-12, 2004.
Produced and mixed by Matt Neal, probably with assistance from Harry Fahey.

When Jade said Bling Bling was his second most embarrassing recording, it begged the question of what was the most embarrassing. Well, here it is.

"I actually can't bring myself to listen to it all the way through," Jade said.

"The singing is out of tune and the lyrics are pretty terrible."

I think Jade actually does a pretty solid job. Singing like Michael Jackson is hard, and while this is pieced together from 11 vocal takes (woos included), there are no effects or compressors or anything fancy over Jade’s vocals and I think he holds his own mostly. I could have used some effects, but it seemed to take away from the MJ-ness of it.


So, yeah, if you hadn’t figured it, this is our fake Michael Jackson song. Back in the early days of writing together, Jade and I would often set ourselves challenges, like ‘Let’s write a reggae song that’s anti-marijuana’ or ‘Let’s write a hip-hop song about lappers’. This one came about from Jade’s desire to write a song that sounded like The King Of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.

Jade could sing a rough approximation of MJ’s style, but I had the really hard part – I had to figure out how to summarise MJ’s sonic approach (particularly the Quincy Jones era) in a lo-fi setting.

In the end I went minimal. I figured out the chords to Jade’s melodies, we wrote the words together, and then I set about recreating The MJ Sound, firstly by listening to as much MJ as I could.

For those of you playing along at home.

The obvious touchstone was Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough. The spoken intro, the synth-string lines, the guitars, the sparse bass, the cowbell, the wooos – I listened to that a lot when trying to figure out what key components we could use in making Disco In Borneo. To a lesser degree, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and Rock With You were also useful, confirming the elements that seemed to be crucial to The MJ Sound.

As for the words, they are reasonably daft, but my favourite line is “my feet try to flee from your something”. We cheated there - see what we did? It’s a trick we’ve used a couple of times since - "something" can be an incredibly effective and strangely evocative word when used appropriately (and you can't think of anything better).

I should point out we don’t know anything about Borneo other than it being part of Indonesia and having jungle. I doubt there are many discos in Borneo, although I’ll stand corrected.

But while we were trying to create an homage to one of music's greatest singers, for both of us it was also about creating an homage to this album:

This is the record that features Liam Lynch’s one hit United States Of Whatever, but there are also a heap of “fake songs” on Fake Songs (such as Fake David Bowie Song, Fake Pixies Song, and Fake Depeche Mode Song) that we found really clever and intriguing. Doing Disco In Borneo just made us impressed by them even more 'cos we could see how hard they were to do.

"We were vastly impressed with what Liam Lynch and done with his faux songs of various artists and I think we wanted to challenge ourselves and see if we could do it," Jade said.

"Some of the production stuff works and gets the MJ flavour across," Jade said, adding that the chorus was his favourite part of the song.

"But I'm embarrassed with how amateur it sounds," he concluded.

In the end, Disco In Borneo is a valiant, jokey failure, I guess. No one would ever mistake it for a legit Michael Jackson song but you can see what we were trying to do and I think it's kinda funny and kinda cool. But is it a good song? No. Maybe it was more of a good experiment and a fun challenge.

Much like this photo.


Girl, I knew it was you from the moment I walked in. So why don't come over here? Yeah.

Girl, I see your tiger eyes
as you prowl around the room
and, girl, you've got me hypnotized
and I know you know it too.

When I see you look at me
well, I feel that I can't breathe
and my feet try to flee from your something.
When the jungle closes in
and I know that I can't win
and you've got me in a spin
and I'm spinning in the wind.

Disco in Borneo
You got me burning
Like an inferno

Girl, I am so surprised
by the power in your gaze
and girl you've got me mesmerised
and your eyes are blaze.

With the fire in your soul
and I'm under your control
Indonesian centrefold in a tight black dress.
Girl, we're dancing so fine
and our bodies start to shine
like we've had too much wine.
Is it your place or mine?

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