The subject matter of most records is, let's face it, pretty inconsequential: getting high or getting your heart broken. Businessman John DeLorean's colourful life banged into both of these things, yet there was so much more to him too. This album - by Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip under the guise of Neon Neon - is all about the late DeLorean, and he was such a fascinatingly conniving critter that they really couldn't go wrong.
It's not an education lesson per se. You can get fragments of his story from listening to the lyrics, but what you get more than anything is the sense of the man: his womanising, his competitiveness, his charismatic drive, his love of cars and,_ er_, more of his womanising. Born in Detroit, DeLorean became infamous for launching his DMC-12 sports car, which featured iconic gull wing doors.
He built the cars in Ulster, but the fact was they were lemons: poorly made by an enthusiastic but incapable workforce. There was the whiff of corruption, too, as the UK government bailed his company out with an awful lot of subsidies. Facing bankruptcy, DeLorean played his final hand: he tried to make a million on a coke deal but was caught by an FBI sting. His reputation was destroyed.
All fascinating stuff, and the resultant album is a fitting testament: exciting, yet flawed like the man himself. Rather than going back to the future, Stainless Style dredges up the sounds of the past. In fact much of it consists of songs which sound like they were made in the ‘80s - the era of DeLorean's downfall.
‘I Lust You’ is a sleazy electro-pop concoction with dirty lyrics licking their way slowly over some filthy keyboards. ‘Belfast’ works too: a love poem written as if from DeLorean to the city where his beloved car factory briefly stood.
Hip-hop fans will be disappointed to learn that the beats ratio isn't as high as you might imagine: ‘Sweat Shop’ has a seat-of-the-pants bassline tailored to being played through a fly car stereo after dark and ‘Trick For Treat’ ropes in the talents of Spank Rock.
But in truth they've thrown everything including the kitchen sink at this record. That's no bad thing when you get reminders of Kelis, Outkast and even The Cure at times - but because it's all over the place, you keep having to adjust your expectations to take account of this.
And also, how many records have Lex released which feature songs sounding like Duran Duran, or even The Killers? But Boom Bip's been brave here. And Super Furry Animal Rhys has turned in a bunch of songs which are a damn sight more interesting than much of his solo stuff.
On the downside, repeated listens can make some songs seem annoying: ‘Raquel’ and ‘Steel Your Girl’ start to really grate after a while. But romantic album highlight ‘I Told Her On Alderaan’ redeems everything, largely thanks to the fact that it sounds like it could have been lifted straight off the soundtrack of The Breakfast Club.
7Chris Beanland's Score