Boom Bip and Super Furry Animals'
Gruff Rhys spin a stainless steel tale of Detroit
one of those very stylish DeLorean sports cars, which looked great but in hindsight
lacked horsepower and tended to fall apart shortly after purchase, Neon
Neon's Stainless Style is a glossily waxed 'n' buffed electro-pop hybrid that
flirts with the fluffily lightweight but which actually boasts unexpectedly
high mileage (though that may vary), a rugged durability and an imposingly
last bit about the dashboard was lifted directly from a General Motors
advertising brochure, circa 1982, a daring, inventive time in our culture's
history, or at least its ad copy. Don't believe it? Just take the roughly
contemporary story of veteran auto-industry kingpin John DeLorean, who had
by the early '80s decided to forego the drab life of a Detroit autocompany
CEO and launch his infamous line of superstylish, masculine and sexy motor
vehicles; he would call it the DeLorean, it would revolutionize the car
business and it would make him a zillion dollars.
know the rest: how DeLorean established a manufacturing plant in Ireland to
assemble his cars; how these expensive motoring toys failed to sell in
substantial numbers, and that failure forced the charismatic, high-living
and dashing playboy DeLorean to engage in such desperate company-saving
fund-raising schemes as attempting to deal vast tonnages of cocaine, most
unfortunately, to FBI agents; and how John crashed, burned and rose again
like a phoenix after spending a lot of time in prison, where he became a
born-again, then died.
Neon is an inspired, collaborative pairing of Wales' Super Furry
Animals' frontman Gruff Rhys and L.A. DJ/electronics fella Boom Bip.
They've taken the DeLorean story and made a good old-fashioned concept
album out of it, the torrid tale seemingly tailor-made for launching hit
after cheese-puff hit of electro-pop goodness. For all its good-humored
party vibe, though, what's even more surprising than the album's stunningly
authentic '80s-era instrumental textures is the frequently moving -
poignant, even -- effect of the DeLorean story told in sound and words.
memories of the '80s -- let's face it, they were basically a dismal time for
all concerned -- become, like nostalgia for any era regardless of reality, a
bubbling forth of sweetness and innocence, and in this case a blossoming
sensuality, not to mention a boldly groundbreaking, lurid sexuality. You
might say the album's instrumental textures trigger 'n' jog as if
discovered in a time capsule from 20 years ago, such is the faithfully wide-screen
shine, sparkle and glimmer from the presumably vintage gear used in its
sounds, yeah yeah yeah, that take you way back to your glorious youth, or
maybe your parents' Simple Minds records. With the aid of corndog but cool
analog synth arpeggiations and awful/ace drum pads on the opening
"Neon Theme," you can just see yourself driving forward, sneering
at the squares trailing behind in your rearview, and knowing that obviously
you're a man or perhaps a woman of excitement, of, of...drive! Neon
Neon break more musical ground, surely, by then directly modeling the
chorus of the epic-cinema rock "Dream Cars" on a TV advertising
spiel, with Rhys's layered voices so melodiously hypnosis-inducing:
"In dream cars...your chariot awaits."
time-warping of "I Told Her on Alderaan," all tightly strummed
guitars and drums ripped plainly from the Police, could of course easily be
a smash hit of Modern Rock (do they still call it that?), and the
Yazoo/Soft Cell skeletal drum programs and synth lines of "I Lust
U" are a contrivance, and the album as a whole is a cartoon -- and it
works uncommonly well on such superficial (sonic) terms. But it's the
unusually resonant songwriting of Rhys that gives these stories a
memorability, a depth and feeling of substance.
If you're familiar with
the Superfurries' peculiarly natural blend of piquant pop/rock with smartly
snarling electro-dance hip-swivelers, these tunes won't seem so off the
wall, but they will sound funny (as in ha-ha) as Rhys and Bip tell
DeLorean's pitiful tale in well-structured and way catchy ditties that,
while afloat in shiny Italo-disco and Egyptian Lover-type rappy crackle and
pop, actually make one feel a bit of, well, sympathy for this deeply flawed
individual named DeLorean. In "Steel Your Girl," Rhys is a
wellspring of hummable ditties, yet he's typically sweetly edgy; the airy,
shimmery effect of the sound is beautiful; the repetitive vocal refrains
are entrancing, as if to haunt, not merely taunt. You can pop-lock to the retro-electro-rap
of "Trick for Treat," yet the tension of its overlapped synth
sequences relentlessly buzzes the head; Rhys provides the contrasting Greek
chorus of conscience and reason.
this thing rocks for the way Neon Neon both heap scorn on and revel in the
wild ambition and, yes, sexy charisma of a figure such as John DeLorean.
Indeed, as DeLorean himself told the undercover FBI agents after he'd sold
them 24 million bucks' worth of high-grade cocaine, "It's good as