Electro-pop Through the Blender and Back
A raw buzz of feedback jump-starts the CD, feedback as raggedly distorted, scratchy and adorable as a boyfriend’s stubble, cutting a swath through the head-banging electro-drums of “Think Niles Drink” and accompanying the ironically couched new wave melodies and the female android intonation of “Rock star . . . boyfriend, / Rock star . . . boyfriend”. “This is how we play the shortie, / Never doing what you say”, goes the impossibly catchy refrain, as insouciantly pop, as in love with technology as early MTV heroes like The Buggles or Wall of Voodoo. It’s fizzy, it’s fuzzy, it’s so superlatively fun that you forget about how much trouble Dutch impresario Rutger Hoedemaekers must have gone to in pasting the pieces together.
Hoedemaekers was discovered by Jason Forrest (AKA Donna Summer), who started playing “Think Niles Drink” on his WFMU radio show back in early 2003, when it was just an anonymous CD-R. He included the song on a fundraising comp, then invited Hoedemakers to record for his Cock Rock Disco label. You can see why they hit it off. The two have a fair amount in common—an omnivorous appetite for high and low pop, a fascination with new wave and punk, and the technical ability to create seamless flights of musical fantasy out of bits and blips from other people’s work. Hoedemaekers leans more toward pure melody than Forrest and the bits he borrows are less recognizable. He’s also willing to slip bits of organic instrumentation into the mix; saxophone, piano, and even tuba jostle for air alongside electronic sounds here.
At just over 32 minutes, the album rattles along exuberantly, dipping into neo-classical piano (“I want to be, / Like Erik Satie”) and ska-ish saxophones in “Nogato”, tripping quickly over the discordant strife of musical collaboration in “Band Dynamics”, and pushing a manic rollerdisco beat with sputtering drum machines in the all-instrumental “Fuzzy Dice (Dangling from The Guitar”. An oompah band dances like an elephant around the wistful melody of “Friends Applaud, The Comedy Is Over”, swaying and tipping with its Teutonic gravity and finally falling to post-modern shards.
Affection—for rock, pop and punk—bubbles through every track. Hoedemaekers obviously twiddles the knobs with genuine love of the forms he slices and reconfigures. This is never clearer than on “Stacks of Marshalls” a synthetic rush over staccato keyboards and machine-drilled speed-beats that presents the perfect scenario for pogo-dancing revisionists. It’s also a portrait of the artist in love with the pure power of amplification, but shy enough to crouch out of sight on the stage. Says Hoedemaekers:
All I really know is how to use this set of Marshalls, /
I can hide behind the amp set and return to start my view, /
Don’t want to have to fire people when it’s out to get me, /
But when cornered I am not afraid to hide behind computer screens.”
Then the chant begins again, “Rock star . . . Boyfriend, / Rock star . . . Boyfriend”. Morrison, McCartney, Jagger, Page and . . . Hoedemaekers? Well, maybe. Who knows what would happen if he stepped out from behind the deck once in a while?