If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, go to your local video store and rent a few ‘80s where the main premise has something to do with technology. I recommend War Games and Electric Dreams for starters, but if those are hard to find, you could pick up old standbys—Revenge of the Nerds perhaps, or even Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—and examine them through a technophile’s lens. The terrific speed at which the digital milieu has changed is sure to trigger a flurry of varied emotions—mirth, sadness, nostalgia, guilt, and annoyance.
Go with your synesthesia. Now harness those feelings, and imagine that the activity you just engaged in—reading the past’s predictions through a contemporary lens—had a soundtrack. You’ll be inches from the stuff of The New’s recent release, Here Comes Everybody.
The album opens with two tracks created to jostle your mind toward contemplation and disruption. Filled with noises that zing between past and present, the instrumentals “Headline” and “Letting Go” catapult the listener into a frenzy of paranoia, consternation, and panic. On “Headline” the stereo effects make it seem like the noises are descending from your environment directly, egging you to check out that incessant clicking or swat away that vexing buzz. “Letting Go” is much more vast and sonic, though no less unsettling. Guitar riffs that sound almost Guns and Roses-ish sail through cosmic, mechanical gurglings, like Slash trapped on the Starship Enterprise. It’s the kind of music that makes you feel like you’re being brainwashed.
If the first two tracks are a spacey trip, by track three, “Superman”, you’ve arrived. The speedy nature of the first two tracks simmers down into a groove that could be off a Stereo MCs release, and/or a dance track from the moon. The tempo is slower, the rhythm gravitationally less bogged down, and it finally incorporates vocals by Steve New that sound light years away. Contributing to the jive are a funky bass line, twitchy guitars, chilled out vocals, and drums laden with too-cool-for-school attitude.
But stylistic diversity is one of The New’s strongest suits, and every time you settle in, you’ll be riled with a new vision of what could be. “Deadbeat” sounds like anything but: it’s a symphony of bubbling rhythms, ascending melodic lines, and lines like “sometimes you feel so happy / so be happy”. And you do. The simplistic sweetness of the track demands sudden, intense euphoria.
The New may be impossible to categorize by traditional genres, but that makes it all the more easy to appreciate their offerings regardless of your taste. Whether it’s the intense, hard-as-nails “Livewire” (completely Tricky-like with the sexy spitfire of Beatrice Brown’s female vocals), the distorted rock of “Be Damned”, the electronica-meets-new-age of “Sister Day”, or the super-anthem that is the title track “Here Comes Everybody”, The New have pulled together a package that’s a true embodiment of postmodern bricolage, and speaks volumes of what today’s trends of sliding across musical barriers can manifest.
Here Comes Everybody hammers home the potential of the times and the technology. Its sound knows no name or home, its energy a vector without a specified direction and instead a concentrated rod of power. It’s an album that also raises as many questions as it asks. The biggest one, I think, is the one that harkens back to those old skool tech movies: is this the future, and when will it seem like the past?
// Notes from the Road
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