* Prices may differ from that shown
I have been wanting to write this album review for a while now, but I felt it would be best to wait until after I had attended a Neon Neon gig to get the full experience and see if the tracks stood up to a live performance. Well, I have to say I am glad I waited because I feel I can properly rate the album, plus I have a better understanding of the meaning behind each song.
Neon Neon is the brainchild of Super Furry Animals lead singer Gruff Rhys and LA producer Boom Bip. The band started as a side project and was originally going to be anonymous, but Gruff Rhys felt his voice was too distinctive and fans would quickly realize who he was. Gruff and Boom also recruited singer Cate Le Bon and the always over the top Har Mar Superstar to join the group.
While deciding the direction of the album Gruff and Boom discovered that they shared a love of synthesizers. The duo compiled samples that centered on an electronic 80's feel. As a lucky coincidence, the house that Gruff and Boom had borrowed to record their demo was filled with 80's memorabilia. Gruff began reading books on decadent 80's cars and was immediately drawn to the iconic DeLorean. As he began to learn more about the car's famous creator he became engulfed in his life story.
--John Z. DeLorean:--
"Stainless Style" documents the trials and tribulations of John Z. DeLorean's life. The album follows a chronological order beginning with DeLorean's rise to fame. The middle of the album deals with the gluttony, scandal, and illegal activities that would gain DeLorean notoriety and consequently land him in serious trouble. The end of the album clearly closes with the death of this celebrity playboy.
An interesting fact is that Boom Bip sent a copy of "Stainless Style" to a friend in LA who was so impressed that he passed it on. The album continued to change hands and now there is a rumored "DeLorean" movie in the works.
Neon Neon's album "Stainless Style" has been one of my favorite albums of the year. I think the fact that it is a concept album is really clever because it obviously gives the whole album a cohesive listening experience. Plus, after listening to the album I learned some interesting things about John DeLorean. How often is an album laden with upbeat catchy tunes and educational at the same time! This album perfectly captures all the excess and superficiality the 80's had to offer.
1. Neon Neon Theme (Instrumental)
2. Dream Cars 10/10
The thumping, jerky melody of the keytar really drives this track and adds a bit of power. The whole track is one that will have you moving. Gruff Rhys voice has a dreamy quality that fits the style of this song. The lyrics of this song such as "Motor City blues/ Drive to power in dream cars" deals with DeLorian's start in Detroit where he created the gull-winged car made famous by the movie "Back to the Future." You can imagine a young engineer making plans for his car while dreaming about riches and Hollywood.
3. I Told Her On Alderaan 10/10
This track could very well be mistaken for a Super Furry Animals song. A memorable chorus with a quirky backing track make for a very appealing combination. Lyrics like, "I told her on Alderaan/That nothing else was going on" alludes to the popularity of "Star Wars" at that time, as well as the fact that DeLorean's first wife was becoming increasingly suspicious that he was not being entirely faithful.
4. Raquel 9/10
This track manages to capture a very exotic, tropical feel by introducing bongo drums and cowbells. Even the keyboard has a steel drum effect added to it. I would imagine that would be to capture the mysterious nature of the Raquel Welsh. DeLorian was rumored to have had an affair with this beautiful starlet. The lyrics tell the story of Raquel's rise to fame "Your father was born in Bolivia/ Your Irish mother made you a star," and her meeting with John, "I saw you as a movie star/ Now you're riding in my car."
5. Trick for Treat 10/10
This track features Spank Rock who lays down the rhymes for this song. Har Mar Superstar sings the chorus while Cate Le Bon and Gruff Rhys provide the backing vocals. This track is very well produced to make all the members of Neon Neon plus a guest rapper work together in harmony. The result is actually one very catchy track. This track documents the period in DeLorean's life when he became a drug trafficker, he would obtain the drugs in South America, return to the U.S. and deal to the Hollywood elite. He would later defend himself in court and the jury would find him not guilty due to entrapment.
6. Steel Your Girl 8/10
This is another track, which is very reminiscent of Super Furry Animals. While the song is quick paced, Gruff keeps a mellow tone to his voice throughout, which makes for an interesting mixture. Both this track and the next deal with the womanizing and numerous affairs that consumed DeLorean's life.
7. I Lust U 8/10
A choppy upbeat number, this track makes you feel like you want to get up and dance. Gruff Rhys infectious tone totally compliments the soft quality of Cate Le Bon voice.
8. Sweat Shop 7/10
This track features Yo Majesty! These two lady emcees add a grimy, urban feel to the song. The minimalist approach to this track using simply drum loops and Yo Majesty!'s rhymes makes you feel like you're underground in a sweaty, dirty car factory. The lyrics "More work/More money/And more money makes me happy" completely sums up how easily greed can consume you.
9. Belfast 10/10
The melody of this track is quite haunting. The hurried keyboard playing conveys a search of urgency that is befitting of the story behind the song. "Belfast" deals with the period of time when DeLorean was about to launch his cars in the UK. After receiving permission from Margaret Thatcher to build his plant in Belfast, the car ultimately turned out to be a failure. Upset and scared that he would lose vast amounts of money DeLorean decides to bomb the plant and later blame it on the IRA. The lyrics: "I built my empire and threw it all away/ Tonight, Belfast I'm saying my goodbyes" puts the listener in the mindset of John DeLorean before he would light that fuse.
When Neon Neon perform this song live in Scotland they change the words from Belfast to Buckfast.
10. Luxury Pool 8/10
This track takes a departure from the rest of the album's sound by including a solely hip-hop song. Rapper Fat Lip is the star of this song, which gives an overview of John DeLorean's life until the point where he is standing in his million-dollar pool waiting to be baptized. Fat Lip has a good flow and with the addition of a catchy hook makes a good track.
11. Michael Douglas 10/10
This track sounds like it could be right out of the movie "Wall Street." The melody is classic 80's filled with synthesizer samples and drum loops. Overall, this track just takes it to the edge of being over the top without crossing the line. Lyrics such as: "Give me a soul implant/ Paid for by your credit card" portrays the egocentric era of the 80's. The story behind this track is DeLorean met Michael Douglas at a pool party and after doing so decided that he needed plastic surgery to make his chin more prominent.
12. Stainless Style 7/10
This track somehow manages to perfectly capture the spirit of attending John DeLorean's funeral. The use of keyboards with an organ effect in conjunction with the choir like backing vocals of the Magic Numbers makes the listener feel as though they are hearing a eulogy being read. Rhys' has quite an emotional tone to his voice throughout this track. This song is named Stainless Style for the fact that when DeLorean died at the age of 80 he was actually buried in a stainless steel coffin. He chose steel because it was the same material that spawned his most famous creation.
This album is available on Amazon marketplace for £5.99.
This is a well-produced album where almost every track is a winner. The perfect combination of electronic and pop is definitely achieved by Neon Neon. The album embodies the spirit of the 80's heavily featuring synthesizers and keytars (remember them?) without taking it over the top. Although, Neon Neon ends up looking like a grab bag of artists who shouldn't belong together, this could not be further from the truth. The fact is each member of Neon Neon work together to compliment one another and create one of the best records of the year.
Neon Neon is a collaboration between Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals fame and producer Bip Boom. You expect most things either of the pair to touch to be quite experimental, and this sure is. It's a full blown concept album about the life and death of car manufacturer John DeLorean (who's cars are most famous for their appearance in the Back to the Future time-travelling films).
The words "concept album" are usually enough to put most people off, but this is a truly incredible album, and a contender for this years mercury award.
The ingenious thing about the record is the way it takes the worst parts of 80's music, mixes them together and throws up something that's really good. "Dream Cars" takes a massive sounding 80s synthesiser sound and builds a big catchy song around it. The riff on "I told her on Alderaan" could have been lifted from a Bryan Adams or Def Leppard record, but still the song sounds fresh. On "Trick and Treat" huge beach boy harmonies hold the song together.
Other tracks sound more modern, with "I lust you" holding its own against a lot of modern chart music, and "Sweatshop" sounding like a pastiche of 50 cent.
Gruff Rhys has a great ear for a tune, and through all it's experimentalism it's the melodies and harmonies that hold the album together.
It's not for everyone, but this is a gem of an album for those who get into it
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Neon Theme
2 Dream Cars
3 I Told Her On Alderaan
5 Trick For Treat
6 Steel Your Girl
7 I Lust U
8 Sweat Shop
10 Michael Douglas
11 Luxury Pool
12 Stainless Style