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Casey and friends: openly gay Fischerspooner singer Casey Spooner offers some surprising collaborations on the group's latest.

In one corner stands song doctor Linda Perry, handmaiden to megahits by Pink and Christina Aguilera. In another, the late Susan Sontag, acclaimed author and cultural critic. What point of intersection could two such disparate women-loving women possibly share? A dog-eared copy of Notes on Camp? No. Something even stranger: New York electro-pop duo Fischerspooner.

Perry and Sontag are just two of the high-profile collaborators on Odyssey, the sophomore album from vocalist Casey Spooner and his musical partner, Warren Fischer. Art-rock icon David Byrne and French producer Mirwais (Madonna's Music) also pitched in. "I love the idea of combining Susan and Linda on the same record," says Spooner, "because that represents the two extremes of my personality."

Musically, Odyssey marks a giant leap forward from #1, Fischerspooner's 2001 debut. After years of hype around the band, their first album weighed in heavy on concept yet lean on polished songs. Odyssey suffers no such dearth, bursting with enough melodic hooks and addictive cotton-candy arrangements to rival Depeche Mode's 1981 classic Speak & Spell.

The standout track is "We Need a War," a chilly electro-funk groove from the point of view of a dictator who strongly resembles our own commander in chief. The words were written by Sontag, whom Spooner met through art curator Klaus Biesenbach. Initially, they scared the hell out of him.

"She showed me the lyrics," he recalls, "and I said, 'Susan, this is very different from what I usually do. I don't know if I can sing the word war.' And she replied"--he takes a long, dramatic pause--"'Your president just approved $80 billion for a war. You need to be able to say that word.'"

Meeting and working with Sontag was a tremendous gift, the openly gay singer adds. "People underestimate the importance of having mentors, and people who are older, around," he observes. "That is such a huge thing in the gay community, because there is a whole generation of artists who are not here because of AIDS."

But is the 35-year-old Spooner--whose first romantic relationship was with R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe while Spooner was a student at the University of Georgia--comfortable with the notion of playing role model or adviser to younger souls? Positively. "If I can be an inspiration to people who are choosing to go down a challenging, nontraditional path--sexually, creatively, however--that is just great."

Reighley is the author of Looking for the Perfect Beat (MTV Books).
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Title Annotation:MUSIC
Author:Reighley, Kurt B.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:May 10, 2005
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