Rinder & Lewis was such an uncompromisingly URBAN act. “Blue Steel,” “Gluttony,” “Lust” …these are tracks that will always and forever accompany my inner city visions of neon and streetlights mirrored in puddles of rain, on darkly fading weekend evenings.
Also this album has a very urban feel to it. Here, the reflection is more complex though. Reaganism, proto-fascist manifest-destiny Americana, nuclear war, dropout culture, and post-hippy LSD casualties… As an artefact of its time, it's contradictory and multifaceted.
Two things stand out, I'd say, over and above your usual ‘dark disco’ fare:
The overtly radio-friendly 80s pop sound, most present in the truly wonderful “Look It Over,” but also in “New Malibu,” “W.A.N.G.,” and the chintzy “Tomorrow Night.” With all their theatrics and mannerisms, these tracks could easily have been mistaken for set pieces from safe, M.O.R. Lloyd-Webber fare, you know… Broadway musicals, cheesy tack. That kind of stuff, The kind of stuff that more haute Discogs lords LOVE to scoff at. (We all know it, most Discogs users tend to gravitate towards the other aspects of this album; the more cosmic-sounding, underground-oriented instrumental title track, for example.)
I envisage how Laurin Rinder and W. Michael Lewis must have been thinking at the time. Some of their more ‘hip,’ self-conscious contemporaries were probably also frowning upon these more mainstream-appealing tracks. I simply love the fact that they ignored these hipsters, followed their artistic vision and went for what they considered the apt choice of production after all: Barytone alpha male rock-opera vocals, superlative lyrics, as if displaying an affectation for the present 80s zeitgeist of insufferable Ayn Rand believers like Starship (2)
, while at the same time undermining that steely Republican ideal through queer re-appropriation.
The second thing that stands out are the cold, twisted, flimsy and somehow demonic vocoder mannerisms that I can only imagine would be inspired by Bruce Haack
. “Put Yourself in Alpha” is like a meeting between the gnomic Haack and the similarly elliptical Gary Numan
. The childlike naiveté of these two savants is compromised by the urban, knowing slickness that we have come to associate Rinder & Lewis with. It makes you wonder, though, whether they are channelling a younger, more innocent version of themselves or just putting on a show…
All in all, a very memorable album!