Friday, May 16, 2008

Album Review: Neon Neon - Stainless Style (3.5/5)

Between Sam Sparro, the Blade Runner Final Cut (which I watched last weekend) and this--Neon Neon's debut Stainless Style, I seem to be living the early-to-mid '80s electro dream at the moment. It's all synths and sci-fi for me these days.

Stainless Style is, as I've read, a loose concept album based on the life of John De Lorean, who founded the DeLorean car company that left its indelible mark in the Back to the Future series for Doc and Marty McFly's flying, time-travelling car. I don't know about that, but the album's pretty good, very '80s sounding. It's not enough to just borrow from the '80s, now bands want to immerse themselves in the instrumentation and vibe of that decade so fully that music like this could have just come from then.

First there the instrumental opening "Neon Theme," which is mostly mysterious early '80s synths over a keyboard-generated beat (I'm pretty sure my grandma's organ that I used to play with does this beat). Then there's "Dream Cars," where the auto theme begins, a chorus intoning "motor city blues" behind the singer's tale. Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes does the drums on it--no joke.

The best track follows. "I Told Her on Alderaan" isn't just cool for name-checking Princess Leia's doomed homeworld, but because it really really sounds like it was plucked right from 1984/85. I remember some music video that I saw on Showtime around then that was mostly animated that I'm pretty sure sounded like this. "Raquel" is also very '80s cool, borrowing that electronic percussion effect Whitney Houston used in "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" that I love. This song takes a little while to get going, but it's pretty good when it does. Guys with high voices singing over synth lines--very Erasure.

"Trick for Treat" is a little harder sounding, and in keeping with the auto industry theme, mentions a "Michigan boy." This is the first of several tracks that include rap, which frankly, isn't welcome here. I like the '80s synth tracks, but the rap-flavored ones just don't work. Same goes for "Sweat Shop" and "Luxury Pool." It's too bad, since there's lot of other good songs among them.

"Steel Your Girl" for example, is great. Reminds me of Ben's Brother's current single "Stuttering," owing to a similar melodic '80s rock influence. "I Lust You" has a harder electro-beat vibe, featuring female vocalist Cate Le Bon. No idea if she's related to Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, but she should be. "Belfast" is another heavy synthesizer track in the Erasure vein, as is "Michael Douglas." Michael Douglas? Yes, another '80s stalwart who gave us Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, and Romancing the Stone, to name a few. "Make it out of silicone" the song says, "I need more stuff--I see my reflection, Michael Douglas's mirror sunglasses." Okay, it lays the '80s materialism on a little thick, but it's having fun and so are we.

Aside from the annoying rap forays, this is a pretty enjoyable album, with an enjoyable self-conscious dose of '80s chic.

Best: I Told Her on Alderaan, I Lust You, Raquel, Dream Cars, Michael Douglas

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