It’s been nearly four years since John Maclean, aka The Juan Maclean, released his brilliant debut, Less Than Human. Despite the title, it was the rarest of things; a modern dance album with a heart, one that made you dance but think about, like, real emotions. Co-produced by The DFA (to dance music what Xenomania are to pop), it ranked alongside debuts by LCD Soundsytem, !!! and The Rapture for pure bone-shaking pleasure. But since then, dance music has shifted away from lithe, funky baselines and, for reasons unknown, embraced crunching rock dynamics (Justice, Pendulum) or gone full-circle and fallen for rave again (The Prodigy).
Interestingly, The Future Will Come occasionally reminds the listener of that other musical trend, the re-reading of the ’80s. Tracks such as the deceptively simple One Day and A New Bot could easily fit onto Metronomy‘s album or La Roux‘s forthcoming debut. With LCD Soundsystem cohort Nancy Whang delivering clipped, almost deadpan vocals, some tracks here bring to mind The Human League (particularly The Station), a connection cemented by Maclean claiming to have listened to Dare constantly for inspiration.
Whilst most dance acts begin to test a listener’s patience by the sixth minute, Maclean seems to revel in drawing a song out, building layer upon layer and then stripping all the elements away again. Eight-minute opener The Simple Life is a case in point, a synthetic drum beat and undulating keyboard riff playing out the opening four minutes until Whang finally appears to deliver the phrase “Now You’re Gone” ad infinitum. It’s a mesmeric, utterly addictive opener. Elsewhere, Happy House, originally released last year, closes the album in style with 12 minutes of intricate percussion, organ stabs and a deliciously retro rave keyboard riff that would make even the greyest businessman throw shapes.
As with all parties, there has to be a comedown. Human Disaster represents this fact in rather heavy-handed fashion. Overly plaintive piano chords and eerie background moans dominate as Maclean mourns the end of a relationship. Not what you would call a gifted vocalist, Maclean manages to sound like he’s lost his keys or spilt some milk, and if Human Disaster was meant to emulate the desolate New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down from LCD Soundsystem’s Sound Of Silver, then it pales in comparison.
Still, this is a minor grumble, on an album that bristles with sonic invention from the title track’s bouncing, rubbery beat to Tonight’s gorgeous synth-heavy backdrop. The Future Will Come is the kind of album you could listen to loudly in a club, or at home with some headphones and it would suit either. Welcome back intelligent dance music, we’ve missed you.