Electropop brainiacs rustle up the party album of the year. Hands down, no question
It’s difficult being a clever bastard. Unless you hide your light under a bushel (or a taxi, in the case of unlikely cab-driving 1980 ‘Mastermind’ champion, Fred Housego), people love to take pot-shots at anyone whose IQ outnumbers their waist measurement. The phrase “know it all” is an insult. Which is weird right?
That’s why, if you’re going to be a smart-aleck Mekon who day-jobs writing serious papers for respected science journals, you’d better be careful only to mix in similarly egg-headed circles. The last thing you want to do is strap on a pair of stilettos and glam it up as the Annie Lennox half of this generation’s Eurythmics. And, if you really must go there, you definitely don’t want to write an album about digital identity, ecology, wealth distribution, feminism and other CLEVER THINGS FOR CLEVER PEOPLE because some moronic critic is bound to sneer at you for doing a hokey job of it.
Did someone call?
‘I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler’ is a colossal failure as a coming-out party for Claire L. Evans’ beautiful brain. But, really, it’s not her fault. Pop music has its own weird rules – anything in German sounds absurd; Coldplay + time = Maroon 5. And you can’t write about the nexus of technology and contemporary socio-politics if your genre de choix is electropop. It’s just too obvious, too tautological; a double-positive that always resolves to a negative. It’s the hammy robot in 50s sci-fi that croaks “I AM A ROBOT” because it’s a robot. We know. You’re a robot. Cute.
So basically, this album is doomed to failure. And yet it’s phenomenal… once you ignore the lyrics that is (except the rather brilliant ones to ‘Don’t Be Rude’, which is essentially ‘ET: The Extra-Terrestrial: The Musical’, scored by Sparks, choreographed by Toni Basil and stretched into a heartbreaking ronde by the ghost of The Cure). That might be down to the Dave Stewart half of YACHT, Jona Bechtolt. It might be the result of the album’s sound-sculpting collaborators (including Jacknife Lee). But, mainly, it’s just the mathematical miracle of squeezing 2,777 ideas into just 2,776 seconds.
The opener, ‘Miles & Miles’, manages to cram in six distinct movements, out-‘Paranoid Android’-ing Radiohead by way of ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Voodoo Ray’ and the hippie rock musical ‘Hair’. And it’s all uphill, downhill, upside down, round-the-bend, inside-out from there on, as the next 10 tracks Rik Mayall their maniacal way through the LCD Soundsystem / Ace Of Base / Blondie / Beloved / Daft Punk / Fugazi / PSB / Fountains Of Wayne / Stuart Price / Gwen Stefani / Hot Chip / Aphex Twin / Daphne & Celeste songbook (which doesn’t exist, but definitely should). Personal fave? ‘L.A. Plays Itself’, because I’m a sucker for three-minute pop songs with bonus choruses, obscenely squelchy basslines and a swaggering tempo that evokes images of The Bee Gees fucking potholes up and down Hollywood Boulevard. But why pick? Even the turkeys are eagles.
A brilliant, exhilarating, dumb pop album, overflowing with imagination, humour and breathtaking sounds which seem to make the air dance in your ears. And you know what? It takes some serious smarts to pull that off.