In comments recently, dhex mentioned the idea of “nostalgia for a future that never happened”. In the real world this nostalgia can arguably be detrimental to the clear-eyed assessment of where we were, are, and are going; but in art, it’s as valid as any other theme. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, and one that is often invoked by music. (See Simon Reynolds’ Retromania for a contention that most nostalgia, of any kind, is inherently inimical to artistic progress).
In the 1980’s, the moon landing was well behind us, and the space shuttle promised relatively cheap and frequent space exploration. Home computers were becoming, if not yet the norm, far more common and affordable. Technology, and life, seemed to be racing along; even now there is a perception of the 80’s as a time of irrational, possibly coke-fueled exuberance and enthusiasm for the rapidly onrushing future.
In the last decade or so, there have been multiple artists and albums that explicitly call back to the musical and memetic trends of the 80’s, to evoke this specific sort of lost-future-nostalgia.
Neon Neon is a collaboration between abstract hip-hop/electronic artist and producer Boom Bip (I highly recommend his debut, Seed to Sun) and mellifluous singer Gruff Rhys of somewhat-hard-to-categorize Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals.
The song at the top of this post, “Dream Cars”, generates the 1.21 gigawatts of epic melancholy we require. That’s Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes on drums; I don’t know who is playing that dirty, dirty bass.
Neon Neon somehow sidestep irony or novelty – actually, they achieve sufficient speed (88 MPH, natch) to soar right over irony and novelty – wholly committing to making a full-hearted dance/pop record with stellar production.
And that car – beautiful, isn’t it? Like the CRT polygon wireframe fantasy that birthed it.
WARNING: the next two YouTube videos feature just a bit of decadence and cheesecake (but no nudity), if your boss or significant other frowns on that sort of thing.
Neon Neon – I Told Her On Alderaan:
Neon Neon – Raquel:
Feel free to hold forth in the comments about the pluses and minuses of: nostalgia in art; the 1980s; Raquel Welch, good god, Raquel Welch; or anything else that strikes your fancy.