01 May 2017 (released)
14 July 2017
I was having a conversation with a cab driver the other day about the way in which genres of decades past influence the current scene. He put forth the argument that of this decade's countless indie outfits to take copious amounts of influence from '80s groups, so many more bands take after The Smiths than say, Elvis Costello. We came to the consensus that the groups like to borrow the outer aesthetics, the style and tone, and apply it to their own modern problems and world view. It is much rarer to find artists who fully embody the ethos of a decade, telling their story with the metaphors and inflections of that point in time.
New York fixture Les Techno has inhabited many different sonic worlds ranging from drum machine heavy hip hop to more standard rock and jazz outfits as well as producing several reggae dancehall records. On his new record What Ever Happened to Les Techno, the multifaceted artist has put his acoustic guitar and drum machine front and centre with his '80s crooning voice, melding it all into a complete package the likes of which we've seldom heard in decades. The resulting package is a very similar creature to INXS. Les Techno's voice goes to the same places as Michael Hutchence and the backups are undeniably INXS in flavour. The music has that same punchy '80s zeal thanks to some very catchy drum programming.
The album opener and lead single, 'Trophy Wife' comes strutting out of the gate like a runway model. A slinky bass riff slithers around snappy drums. Techno tells the tale of a debutante on her journey to selling out and becoming a full blown trophy wife. The accompanying video is plastered with images of Ivanka Trump cut with various scenes of sleaze. Back alley guitar solos and moaning female backups lend a sordid edge to this slick number. 'Who Do You Believe' kicks off with an irresistibly catchy acoustic guitar riff with fizzing and warbling noises buzzing all around. Techno sits back comfortably on a smooth poppy groove. 'Soul of the New Machine' plays on a similar formula of light breezy synths over memorable acoustic passages.
This latest incarnation of Les Techno embodies that certain time and place in a way that doesn't feel like appropriation in the way so many other acts borrow from the era. The record doesn't just rip off a drum beat or copy a guitar tone, rather it was bred purely from that style. That time when the spectrum ran from yuppie to post-punk goth and this album finds itself firmly on that continuum. Lyrics like “I am the soul of the new machine” and “We all look for love salvation” come right out of the lexicon of tunes like 'New Sensation'. There's something much purer than being just another moody indie band trying to rip off Johnny Marr's guitar tone.