Are we imagining things, or is the DIY music scene trying on something that fits rather like a golden age?
To wit, Scott French, who plays drums and synthesizer for Philadelphia-based alt-pop ensemble The Swimmers. December 5 saw the MP3 release of his solo album, The Color Code. Recording as “napostrophet” — or the much more pronounceable “N’T” — his solo material is a fair departure from his collaborative efforts, recalling that fateful week in the early 80s when, quite suddenly, “punk” referred to a style of music with which we associated black slacks, white socks, skinny ties and fat hair. Whatever could we mean by that? Try first “Poison Fruit,” which you can stream right here:
The cut — as most of the tracks on the album do — begins laptop-minimal: an unfickle drum line, control panel synth, and lightly distorted vocals. The forward energy and cascading, vortex chorus seamlessly recall the Reagan era, and the intentionally absurd lyrics etch that destination in granite: “Just keep pushing me down head first, to the center of the middle of the bottom of the earth.” It’s a great track, but for those who conflate “throwback” with “period piece,” try instead the opening, title track:
This is a dispatch from the matrix: “the colors of the building are in your head … the color code, it’s blue.” E-valkyries inaugurate the track with siren vocals, and now a clean-tone guitar rides alongside French’s somewhat rushed vocal phrasing (“you’ve got time to study/study microbiological things” is a bit of a mouthful at 125 BPM). At the three-minute mark the bridge launches into a huge, soaring synthesizer piece, and the fingersnap drum kit is made over with arena-rock hardwear. It’s unexpected, and it works. We also like the second track, “Say that you want it.”
This meaty slab of 80s electro-pop start out with bottom-register synth growl and blustering, stormtrooper harmonies (in only the best of ways). By time the Mr. Roboto chorus kicks up, you’ll be out of your seat already, even if you’ve forgotten how to dance to all this. And in spite of his nicotene-and-electropunk veneer, French’s poet-heart shows through during lyrics like this futile and Beckettesque: “Ket’s just keep waiting for good things to happen to us/let’s just keep waiting for the inevitable/let’s just keep waiting for whatever will come.” And that’s some nice laser-edge guitartronica running alongside the coda, too.
The Color Code, like “The Color Code,” is an odd quilt. Here is a staycation of industrial undercarriages, and post-rock axeslinging. There is another literate drum lick, and a touch of Robert Smith preening. The Color Code features slow jangles about modern-day rootlessness and uptempo dance numbers with too-clever-by-half texturing. There’s even a virtual piano bar, with swing beat and petticoat guitar (we haven’t yet worked out how to tip at this gin joint, but it will more than likely involve PayPal).
But much more than that, this is the unmistakable sound of another independent-minded artist trying to do things exactly his way. Start to come around to his way of thinking at the links below.