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Zan Rowe keeps pumping out the classics. She always plays some Queens of the Stone Age, which is always welcome, and she also likes to spin us some Jon Hopkins. The other day she had the balls to play New Noise by Refused, which is pretty impressive coming from a station that, specialist shows aside, play only super-safe punk and metal bands. Rowe’s hot streak continued the other day when she played Silicon’s Burning Sugar. This hot beat is one of those immediately gripping songs, the sonic equivalent of the arrival of bountiful cleavage to tired eyes.
Kody Neilson is back under his guise of Silicon with his debut album Personal Computer. Is disco really dead? Or does it have a place in the 21st century?
A ‘wah-wah’ that sounds like a duck’s been recorded through a vocoder announces the song, before a drum roll lets in a sextastic, tumbling riff of electronica. Silicon’s – aka New Zealander Kody Neilson’s – vocals then merge into the song’s lane, turning a kindling fire into an inferno.
Listening to singles before you listen to the album, always changes the listening experience, but the evidence seems to be that Burning Sugar seems to be the hottest (or sweetest) thing about this record, Personal Computer, by far. Burning Sugar is so excellently grabbing that its genre and tropes are hardly noticed. However, peel away the boneriffic hooks and Neilson’s work becomes exposed as just following another meme.
That meme is nu-disco, or disco revival, or something like that. There’s a general lack of the polish or sharpness associated with modernity (of which electronic music is arguably the most modern form of music), with funky, squared crashes and warbles that characterised electronica in the bygone years of mullets, keytars and mulleted keytarists being preferred.
Making funky and groovey music like this must surely be as hard as throwing darts at a board in hope that one hits. Maybe there’d have to be a lot of throwing, but this sort of music makes people bip and bop so easily that it’s a bit of head scratcher that apart from Burning Sugar – which shows Neilson’s got it within him – there’s no real attention grabber on Personal Computer.
Neilson himself crafted the artwork for this album, with every song having its own distinctive emoji. It’s interesting that with his background, the album and concept seems confused.
From his stage name (silicone is an integral component of all electronics) to the album’s name, Neilsen seems to be getting at all those themes about the increasing intersection of digital technology and everyday living (nothing new). On top of that, with songs like God Emoji and Little Dancing Baby and the artwork, it seems like Neilson is going down the path of the internet culture.
That’s all well and good, but when these themes are met by what’s basically a revival of a dead genre, it becomes skewed; it’s a display of the modern world with old music. That’s strange, but perhaps unintentionally is a strong display of where our progression of art and culture is at the moment; a nostalgic look backwards because the new world’s too hard to face.
If, somehow, that was Neilson’s intention then this artwork’s themes are then very impressive. Still, that doesn’t matter because Burning Sugar aside, the songs aren’t really doing it for me.
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