Album Reviews

Neon Neon – Stainless Style

(Lex) UK release date: 17 March 2008

Neon Neon - Stainless Style Strap yourselves in, close the gullwing doors, and prepare for the ride of a lifetime. For this is Neon Neon and their concept album telling the story of John DeLorean and his motor car – a tale of speed, drugs, sex, glamour and financial ruin.

And now the narrative has music to suit it, as Gruff Rhys and his partner in time travel Boom Bip go back to the future in their search for one of Detroit’s most flamboyant sons. Rhys may not be a petrol head but Hollon clearly is, and dresses up his music to reflect that.

The music could hardly evoke the 1980s more strongly. The most obvious homage to the period comes through single I Lust U, a moderately sleazy update of Depeche Mode‘s People Are People. Sleazier than that is Sweat Shop, which could be interpreted either as an acute homage to the car’s pulling quality, or as a reverent piss take on the temperature inside. Hollon’s bass lines evoke the revving of the engines effortlessly.

Top Gear heads past and present have gone out of their way to criticise the DeLorean car, but on this album it emerges as the work of a flawed genius, and the music goes some way to reflecting that. Guests Spank Rock, Cute Le Bon, Yo Majesty and Fat Lip occasionally drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and on these occasions the music sounds like an effective pastiche of Timbaland, but the end product is overwhelmingly of its time.

And it’s when Rhys and Hollon are stuck in the period that Stainless Style is most enjoyable. The former’s instinct for soaring melodies and soundbite lyrics propel I Told Her On Alderaan forward, and the beats – presumably Hollon’s making – are funky throughout, with that rounded bass sound prevalent of the ’80s disco.

Just occasionally a wistful reminder of the Super Furries comes through, with Steel Your Girl a blissful treat, and the famous Rhys falsetto is revealed in its full glory on the heady Raquel. The closing title track, meanwhile, has an elegiac air, with the implied undertone that we should mourn DeLorean and his passing.

As a document of its time, then, Stainless Style is remarkably successful. Taken on the base level of being an enjoyable pop album, it also triumphs handsomely. An indulgence not to be passed over or taken guiltily.

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More on Neon Neon
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Neon Neon’s Gruff Rhys: “As long as you’re not too reliant on technology it’s OK” – Interview
Neon Neon – Stainless Style