One of the most obnoxious recurring plots of the 21st century is the death of substance. As mass media markets continue their evolution as the puppets of advertisers, large corporations, and focus groups, the emphasis has shifted from “the hold” to “the catch”. Major labels want artists who will deliver three-minute songs with catchy beats and pretty melodies that can be played on the radio—not substantive albums full of 17-minute epics and literary references. Our television screens are littered with clever excuses for product placement. Even books have caught on; who knew “DaVinci” would one day become the single key word that would most get a book noticed?
Still, it is easy to sense a tentative attitude toward all of the flash and glitter, for as much as shiny things may catch our eye, most of us would at least like to believe that underneath the shine is something of value, something less disposable than the advertised candy coating might imply. It’s okay to insult our intelligence—just don’t make it too obvious.
Ursula 1000’s Here Comes Tomorrow, on the other hand, makes like the peacock headdress that adorns most of its cover and spends 53-ish minutes flaunting all of the flash, glitz, and glamour it can muster. It’s the red carpet pre-show of electronic albums, far less concerned with who won than what everyone was wearing. It’s a hedonistic, alcohol-fueled night on the town complete with aural blackouts that allow us to forget what was heard mere minutes after it ends. Here Comes Tomorrow leaves its listeners satisfied, exhausted, and strangely content, even if those listeners aren’t quite sure what just happened.
Oh, and there are sound effects! The first song is called “Kaboom”, and it sounds as though it was made by a man who’s watched one too many episodes of Adam West’s Batman. It’s not as if there’s a verse or a chorus, it’s mostly just Alex Gimeno (the mastermind behind Ursula 1000) dishing out his sleaziest “Hello Baby” catcalls while vocalist Izumi Ookawara (of Qypthone, whose retro stylings seem naturally suited for such a collaboration) seductively coos phrases like “Pow!” and “Boom!”. First single “Boop” features noted “sound poet” Barbara de Dominicis from Cabaret Noir for something that sounds a bit like a very calculated jazz scat over a spy movie bassline, all of it punctuated by stabs of muted trumpet. “Mirkin the Mystic” shows up to intersperse chant-like, rhythmic spoken sound to the snake charmer flutes and sitars. Plenty of tracks here make it obvious that Here Comes Tomorrow isn’t about the words (or the non-words) as much as it is the way they’re delivered—they’re little more than the idle conversations that provide something to focus on during the quieter moments of the party. Of course, what would a good party be without some serious dancing? This is where Here Comes Tomorrow succeeds— providing party jams that could recalibrate the Richter scale. It’s no surprise, then, that Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, the Saturday Night Live guitarist and hitmaker best known for teaming with Max Martin to write two of last year’s humongous Kelly Clarkson hits (“Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Behind These Hazel Eyes”), is on board for no less than three songs here. “Hello! Let’s Go to a Disco” is mindless fun with Dougee Dimensional of The Gentle People and “Arrastão” is absorbing Latin hip-hop with KoJAK, but nothing quite beats the absolutely bizarre presence of Luke’s own Prince impersonation on the P-Funk-inspired “Electrik Boogie”. As it turns out, Dr. Luke himself sports a pretty mean falsetto. As the closing strains of the Bowie-inspired “Here Comes Tomorrow” hit (with Misty Roses’ Robert Conroy playing the part of Bowie), the pre-sleep hangovers start to show up, and everyone’s saying things like “I’m too drunk to be this sober”. Still, there’s the vague sense that something great just occurred, a wondrous event coordinated by an invisible individual who nobody got to properly meet as the emphasis was placed on all of the pretty people who attended. Indeed, it’s almost difficult to find Alex Gimeno in Here Comes Tomorrow behind his myriad guests, most of whom steal the spotlight when they show up. He’s the bizarro Liam Howlett (of Prodigy), hiding behind his equipment and letting everyone else do the talking, except that unlike Howlett, whose electronics are wrapped in rage and punk energy, Gimeno just wants to make everyone relax and have a good time for a while. Happily, his efforts are very much successful.