deeelite

Popdose Flashback ’92: Deee-Lite, “Infinity Within”

The day after my 14th birthday, my mom took me to the mall because the money I’d received from family as gifts (that was right about the age when it was just easier for them to give me cash rather than try to buy me presents) was burning a very large hole in my pocket. We walked into Sam Goody and I headed straight for the one thing in the store I knew I wanted: the new Deee-Lite record, Infinity Within. I had been so obsessed with their first album, World Clique, that when I read about their second in a magazine, I made sure I got it on the day of its release.

Though the CD was one of the first packaged in a new eco-friendly packaging Warner Music was trying out (called the eco-pack, it was mostly paper packaging that you folded into the shape of a traditional CD case once you got it home), I did not yet have a CD player, so I was relegated to the good ol’ cassette tape. And I almost wore that thing out. The summer of 1992 was the summer of Infinity Within for me — there were very few other albums that got as much attention from my Walkman.

With their sophomore effort, Deee-Lite headed into a slightly different direction, musically and lyrically. They not only wanted you to dance up a storm, but they also wanted you to be a little bit more socially conscious while doing so, with songs like “Rubber Lover,” “Vote, Baby, Vote,” “I Had a Dream I Was Falling Through a Hole in the Ozone Layer,” and “Fuddy Duddy Judge.” They even included the phrase “Let’s Face It, It’s a Pro-Choice Album” on the album’s cover.

Even though I adored it (and still do), Infinity Within did not do nearly as well as World Clique, both critically and commercially, possibly because of the overtly political messaging. It peaked at #67 on the Billboard album chart and barely crawled into the top 40 on the UK album chart. Its singles didn’t do very well, either. The first single released was “Runaway,” with “Rubber Lover” as its b-side. It didn’t even make it onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart, though it did wind up topping the Hot Dance Club Play chart.

The other two singles released, “Thank You Everyday” and “Pussycat Meow” did not do as well — the former did not chart at all and the latter only made it to number 6 on the Dance chart. The group did score a small victory with a popular PSA that was made from the song “Vote, Baby, Vote” to coincide with the 1992 presidential election.

Despite the fact that Infinity Within is regarded by many as falling squarely within “sophomore slump” territory, I don’t think it’s been given nearly the credit it deserves for being a great dance/funk record. The group once again worked with funk/soul heavyweights Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker, and Fred Wesley, all of whom they collaborated with on World Clique. Also appearing on the album are legendary guitar player Catfish Collins (Bootsy’s brother), Parliament/Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell, Michale Franti of Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, and up-and-coming rap group Arrested Development, whose debut record was also released in 1992. The sound created by collaborating with these particular artists, in addition to a slew of talented electronic/dance musicians, is rich and eclectic, a perfect blend of dance, funk, soul, and pop.

As noble as I think it was for the group to explore socially conscious lyrics, I don’t think those songs work nearly as well as the tracks that are purely funk/soul/dance songs like “Heart Be Still,” “I Won’t Give Up,” “Two Clouds Above Nine,” and “Thank You Everyday.” I think that if the band had cut all but, say, one of the “socially conscious” tracks, the new Infinity Within would’ve been the best album of their career — and maybe they would’ve been thought of as pioneers of a new kind of funk music.