You guys know that most of the popular music in the ’80s sucked, right?
Those elements of the era we keep trying to cleverly incorporate into the music of today aren’t the healthy, nutritional notes and production tricks of the decade – they’re the cheesy, sugary, teeth-rotting preservatives and artificial flavours that we should recognise as being cancer-inducing to our modern minds.
Zoomy synths, tacky snare slaps, chorus and phaser fucked out guitar acrobatics, god damn saxophone solos – they’re all shit.
So why do we keep pretending like they’re great? Nostalgia is obviously a huge part of it. We get emotional when we remember the tones and textures that used to blast through the speakers of the local supermarket while our mums wore over-sized sloppy joes, pushed gigantic rudderless trollies and told us we weren’t allowed to get Coco Pops no matter how many times we begged.
Only I don’t have fond memories of those musical times – I fucking despise them. In fact the only song that has stuck with me from those flashbacks and continues to resonate with me is George Harrison’s I Got My Mind Set On You, and that’s because that song is a straight up, undeniable jam.
We also all now know that there was in fact amazing music in the ’80s – Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, Pixies, The Smiths, The Replacements, so so so much hip hop – all artists and styles that didn’t get played on the mainstream radio, but had so much more to offer in terms of substance, style and artistry. You know – like today.
And yet somehow, Anthony Gonzalez’s M83 project – despite utilising so many of those awful, chemical laced elements of the ’80s and its musical missteps – never had the stench of awful on it. Like a brilliant scavenger, Gonzalez had an impossible mastery of re-imagining those ingredients and presenting them in entirely new contexts – never simply unwrapping them and flopping them down in front of us.
2011’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – his defining artwork – had moments of total brilliance, (Midnight City alone will forever stand as one of those awe-inducing singles that will define the decade) and it was all salvaged together from the broken and disgusting pieces of ’80s production and electronica, fused into unrelenting pop anthems that surpassed the sum of the shards and strands from which the compositions were melded together, and stood as truly beautiful artistic structures.
But five years later on Junk, well – the name says it all. The artistry has evaporated, and in its place Gonzalez has just shoveled those same broken and burnt out plastic particles in front of us again and expected us to be amazed. Only this time he’s failed to even try to make them his own and expected our nostalgia to brain-wash us into thinking we’ve been left with anything except this pile of sonic garbage.
Case in point – skip to track five Moon Crystal. That is the straight up sound track to a business instructional VHS tape with pictures of yachts and wind-surfers in the background, as a lady with perfect white teeth in a high wasted bikini explains to you how you too, can own your own slice of heaven in a new Gold Coast high rise development.
It’s sadly a pretty consistent sample of what you can expect from rest of the album. So much of this record isn’t even trying to be original or innovative. It’s warmed up, re-hashed shit from an era that taste forgot. There are definitely no Midnight City moments. Instead, there’s For The Kids – a song that would play third in the credits of a romantic basketball movie.
Or Bibi The Dog – the soundtrack to a night club scene from a buddy cop film set in the near future and starring Steve Guttenberg. The cliches are palpable, the limited scope blinding and the gall of it all – insulting.
Go! might be the album’s only saving grace (listen below) – but even it is a mid-level cut in comparison to Gonzalez’s earlier work, or anything from fellow ’80s extortionists Passion Pit.
I could easily go on, but it would be a waste of both my and your time. This album is terrible. If you haven’t already, go listen to The Replacements record Let It Be and discover what the ’80s really could offer.
Seriously. Go. You’ll thank me later.
‘Junk’ is out April 8th, and available to order here.