It’s the wettest summer on record, huge parts of England appear to be submerged in floods, and the news is still full of tragic events such as bomb threats, war and Paris Hilton being released from jail. We need something to cheer us up. Enter Datarock.
Datarock are a synth-pop duo from Norway, but unlike their countrymen Royksopp or Erlend Oye, they don’t have a hint of po-faced shyness. Live, they jump around the stage clad in matching red tracksuits and shades, and this sense of fun is effortlessly transferred to the studio.
This is a band who can perform a song whose chorus is, in effect, a cover version of the Maybelline advert (“maybe she’s born with it…”) completely straight-faced, or can start an album with the chant of “BMX is better than sex!” and shout it like they mean every word of it.
Thankfully though, this isn’t comedy synth-pop, designed to be listened to once, giggled at and then thrown away. Fredrik Saroea and Ketil Mosnes are fine musicians and play a polished mix of funk, electro and disco – think of a mix between early Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem.
Fa-Fa-Fa for instance has a wonderfully funky guitar riff that is very reminiscent of David Byrne’s art-rockers, while album standout I Used To Dance With My Daddy features a terrifically addictive keyboard motif which gives way to a naggingly catchy chorus. It’s the track here that could easily become a cross-over hit.
Then there are the moments that would be throwaway fluff in anyone else’s hands, but work beautifully here. Computer Camp Love takes the ‘tell me more’ call-and-response from Summer Lovin’ from Grease (really) with lyrics such as “she�s a nice girl / Big deal / Did you get in her pants / She�s not that kind of a girl, booger / Why, does she have a penis?”. Utterly stupid, but it can’t fail to put a smile on your face.
Yes, sometimes the humour dips into a level that even Nuts magazine would find a bit below them, such as Night Train To Uranus (that old play on words on ‘uranus’ and ‘your anus’, which stopped being funny when you were about 12). Yet most of the time, this gloriously stupid pop is performed with such a sense of fun and enjoyment that you can’t help but be seduced.
Princess for instance has the chorus “you’ve got the ass of a prince, you’ve got the prince of an ass” which is ridiculous yet oddly touching while Laurie is an ode to Lou Reed‘s significant other Laurie Anderson and manages to swipe some of her song O Superman before disappearing in a mix of guitar and keyboard drones.
Finally, there’s a moment that shows that maybe they do have the old cliche of ‘tears of a clown’. The Most Beautiful Girl is a haunting, slower number, apparently played completely straight and about the break-up of a relationship is enough to have you wiping a tear away. And you wouldn’t have said that earlier on when you were singing along to a gay love song about ET.
One of the most riotously entertaining listens of the year, Datarock won’t change the world, but they will put a smile on your face.