Fresh from topping the British charts, ”Cotton-Eye Joe,” by a bunch of Swedish goofballs called Rednex, has a chance of doing the same thing here; it’s in Billboard’s Top 40 and rising. For sheer audaciousness, it’s not surprising that the record is garnering such attention. Where else can you hear a barn-dance staple gone techno, complete with dance-diva wailing and manic banjos and fiddles? Malcolm McLaren first demonstrated the ties between square dancing and urban dance music more than a decade ago on ”Buffalo Gals,” but Rednex take it to a demented, ridiculously frenetic extreme.
Still, the band’s very name is a clue that they’re a one-idea novelty act, and their first album, Sex & Violins (Battery/Zomba), only confirms it. If you think ”Cotton-Eye Joe” gets annoying, imagine an entire album that reworks its formula with ersatz folk songs. Even worse, they’re unbearably condescending toward the music they’re exploiting: Nearly every song is sung in the voice of a drooling, bug-eyed inbred from some imaginary Appalachian trailer park. (”McKenzie Brothers” does sport a nicely spooky guitar line.) Rednex have a better grasp of the English language than, say, Ace of Base. But there’s a fine line between creatively uprooting tradition and demeaning it, and Rednex traipse over that line way too often. Destined for a Scandinavian version of Hee Haw — where they belong. D