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On Second Listen: Neon Neon – Stainless Style

on September 14, 2008, 11:19am

Coked out guys in suits, women in high heels and shiny dresses with no bras, bums on the street all over the place, broken glass everywhere, people pissing on the stairs. You know they just don’t care that people listen or not, this is an album and group that are entirely conceptual. Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys and Boom Blip formed Neon Neon, a purely 80’s inspired group. Their debut album is Stainless Style, a concept album entirely about and inspired by John Delorean. Word on the street is that they plan on making the next album about a guerilla/revolutionary from the 1980s.

Though released in March 2008 to little commercial success, Stainless Style went on to garner a nomination for a 2008 Mercury Prize – both obvious outcomes considering the album’s styles and sounds. The effort sounds as if it was made in the 1980’s. It’s so over the top that it isn’t an 80’s influenced album like so much out there right now. In fact, you can actually trick people with this album, they will legitimately think it is from the 1980’s.

Featuring artists like Gruff Ryhs, Spank Rock, Fat Lip, Kate Le Bon, the album is essentially expected to be well made and well thought out, so really it is more of a question of if they really pulled off the 80’s thing. A brief look at the album and aesthetic of the band and songs can point to an answer. First, the album cover: simple and screams 1980’s to the MAX. Stainless Steel even has a theme song, which is rare, as there are only a few times in life when bands would make actual themes to their albums. That time was 1981-1986, specifically. The patron saint of 1980’s industriousness, John DeLorean, is all over the place, songs about his relationships with actresses, his shady business dealings, his drug arrest, it is all here. Plus, we get songs called “Michael Douglas” and “I Told Her on Alderaan”, so the 80’s movie references are covered.

After the Blade Runner-esque opening theme, “Dream Cars” whips the album up with synthesized percussion and softly sung lyrics, perfectly matching any song done by a man in eyeliner and his electro band. “I Told Her On Alderaan” is the highlight of the album. It’s catchy, beautiful, and accessible to the 80’s haters. “Trick for Treat” marks a change in the album, it is the  first time the band dips deeper into the 80’s and features some rap. Yet another appearance by Spank Rock on an independent release, the song has the distinctive 80’s electronic vibe of other Spank Rock tracks. The most startling transition in 2008 music goes to “Steel Your Girl” which when following “Trick for Treat” knocks you back by how different the songs feel. “Steel Your Girl” is also the closest to Super Furry Animals the album will get.

“Sweat Shop” is the first to feature spoken word samples to open a song on the album. It’s a strong electro rap album that really embodies all the female rap of the 1980s. “Belfast” is more experimental with the synth than other songs, but the playfulness of the music plays off the more serious tone of the song. The album closes with a building soft choral number with some haunting piano.

Stainless Style reflects the era of John DeLorean perfectly. It has the synth, the pop, the dance, the rock, the rap and the ballsiness of the decade. Gruff Rhys and Boom Blip already succeeded “being 80’s” by the pure fact of being willing to actually concept an album about John Delorean. The album move along pretty well until the rap hits, which takes a while to get into because it is such a changeup, but after it comes, it’s just as good as earlier tracks.  For those wanting to get a taste of independent 80’s influenced music, you’ll need to look a little further than this album.

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