They were heady days in 1990; Madonna was vogueing, Betty Boo was ‘Doin’ The Do’, and M.C. Hammer was designating what you could and couldn’t touch (mostly “this”). House music had hit the mainstream. Black Box, Technotronic, Soul II Soul, Yazz, and Neneh Cherry had broken down the (seemingly insurmountable) barriers that the music industry had thrown up in fear of another “Disco Sucks” backlash. While British and European acts embraced techno and acid house, North America was suspiciously quiet.
Along came Deee–Lite, with a little help from A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, Bootsy Collins, and a Herbie Hancock sample, with a worldwide smash. Their debut single ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ hit number one in nearly every English-speaking country and was a major hit everywhere else too. Deee–Lite would break up acrimoniously after two more albums but their legacy was already assured.
Parliament –Funkadelic’s Collins was a fan of the band before they’d recorded a note. They were a major draw in New York City with their outlandish duds and their unique blend of funk and house. The DJ duo of Towa Tei and Supa DJ Dmitry created individual grooves while Lady Miss Kier turned their tunes into songs with infectious hooks. Collins told Kier to call him when they got a recording contract and, true to his word, turned up at the studio to contribute to World Clique.
The inlay card for the CD edition features an interview with Lady Miss Kier looking back on the band, and a collection of promotional ephemera; posters, ads, and record covers, in glorious and garish colour. The second disc is a collection of 14 contemporaneous remixes. As with remixes in general, the quality varies. However, some of them are good enough to take the place of the canonical album tracks. The Meeting Of The Minds mix of ‘Groove Is In The Heart’, for example, is only a minute and a half longer than the original but feels like a satisfying, pill-munching 12”extended mix.
‘Deee-Lite Theme’ opens with a Herbie Hancock sample and ‘Good Beat’ is a great dance track bridging Chicago house and European techno. ‘Power of Love’ proves that there is something to that title. Like Huey Lewis and the News, Frankie goes to Hollywood and Jennifer Rush, Deee-Lite turn out a killer homotitular track. ‘Try Me on... I'm Very You’ brings out the funk and jazz with palm-muted guitar, piano stabs and horns.
Lady Miss Kier takes a back seat for ‘What is Love?’. Again it shares a title with other performers, in this case, Howard Jones and Haddaway, but it isn’t close to either stylistically. The Hancock sample that opens the ageless ‘Groove Is in the Heart’ retains its power to stun. Deee-Lite’s signature tune never fails to thrill, and it is helped along by Bootsy Collins and Q-Tip at the top of their game. ‘Who Was That?’ maintains the vibe with some Jean Michael Jarre meets early Prodigy bleeps over serious wah wah funk.
‘Deep-Ending’ and ‘Build the Bridge’ conclude proceedings and prove that there is more to Deee-Lite and World Clique than one song, but is this a novelty listen or is it worth investing in? The answer is that it holds up brilliantly. Kier’s voice is so good that it makes you sad that she got burned so badly by her experience in the music industry
Listening to the record now, it is remarkable how forward thinking it appears for 1990. The house pads and synths sound like those that Nightmares On Wax and their Warp Records ilk would later employ. 27 years on, their sound is prescient and both the charts and the underground are packed with bands who want to sound like world clique. They can’t succeed though, Deee–Lite were unique because of their vibe, their interaction with each other, their outlook, and their individual style; things that cannot be replicated, only imitated. So even though it sounds of its period, it demands repeat listening. Deee-Lite were unusual then and they remain unusual now.