It’s misleading that the ‘80s are notoriously remembered as a decade of conspicuous consumption. At what time has “greed is good” not been a ruling mantra? Maybe one reason the ‘80s continue to recall bright lights and big cities so much is because of the abundance of the decade’s greedy icons. Like the fictional Gordon Gekko. Or the all too real John DeLorean.
If all you remember DeLorean for is designing the car made famous in the Back to the Future movies, you’re forgetting his company’s collapse into bankruptcy and drug trafficking charges that were brought against him (which he was acquitted of). DeLorean’s glitz and glam story serves as the inspiration for Neon Neon’s debut full-length, Stainless Style. The group, the pairing of Super Furry Animals lead singer Gruff Rhys and electronic music-maker Boom Bip, has picked a fitting avatar for American avarice and has put his tale to fittingly Miami Vice-like music. For a fuller bio on DeLorean, just consult “Luxury Pool,” on which Fatlip raps what amounts to a Wikipedia entry on the man.
Other guests help infuse more hip-hop into Stainless. Spank Rock throws all kinds of pop cultural references around on “Trick for Treat,” even nicking the title line from the Velvet Underground’s drug dealer ode “I’m Waiting for the Man.” Yo’ Majesty tries to heat up “Sweat Shop,” but the track dissolves into numbing repetition, cheesy titillation, and Rhys’s weak attempts to pose as a party starter. Leave the goofy Welsh loverman shtick to Tom Jones, Gruff. Elsewhere, songs like “Dream Cars” and “Steel Your Girl” recall classic, Cars-like ‘80s pop-rock. Seems that no matter what project Rhys is involved in, his love of bright, Brian Wilson-inspired melodies is going to shine through.
“I need more stuff” Rhys repeats over and over like a droning consumerist robot on “Michael Douglas,” named, of course, for the actor who played Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. That lyric and other darker shades on Stainless bear warning of the dangers in recklessly pursuing wealth. But in the end, the album actually comes around to seeing DeLorean as a kind of American folk hero, the robber baron as Robin Hood. Fatlip praises his hustler’s spirit on “Luxury Pool,” and the closing title track offers up a plea for spiritual redemption for DeLorean, who did convert to Christianity late in life. “Let the good times roll while they can,” the record seems to say. And as long as the parties last, Stainless Style will serve as a good accompaniment.