Kavinsky, ‘OutRun’ – Album Review
‘Drive‘ is a movie about looking cool; a movie about Ryan Gosling‘s face and Carey Mulligan’s face and the pink-tinted mise en scéne underworld where the two do sexy battle before a backdrop of exploding cars.
In that context, Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’ sounded great. The theater-shaking stomp-march beat, incomprehensible robot vocals and shadowy sexiness (Lovefoxxx from CSS cooing, “There’s something inside you / It’s hard to explain”) were irresistible, particularly as they played over a dark-pink skyline, highlighting — of course — the contours of Ryan Gosling’s face.
Unfortunately, Kavinsky’s sense of style and grasp on cool are a tad shakier than that of ‘Drive’ director Nicolas Winding Refn. On ‘OutRun,’ his debut album, the French musician can’t decide between comic book irony and full-on ’80s electro-pop homage. A goofy intro sets the stage for Kavinsky’s zombie Testarossa-driving main character (ostensibly Kavinsky himself). “On a thunderous night along a ragged coast, a mysterious red car came down,” intones a narrator. The red Testarossa crashes in a meleé of fire and steel, and “our hero” emerges, zombified and searching for “her.”
Kavinsky does have musical chops, as evidenced by the sick guitar melody on ‘ProtoVision.’ And ‘Odd Look,’ which deserves its own dance, features some fine arpeggio work. Its diseased vocals, grandma-ish and indecipherable, are certifiably cool.
The gulf between that song, which nails the ‘Miami Vice’ vibe, and the silliness of ‘Suburbia,’ however, is wide. “I cut these fools like pizza pies with extra cheese,” claims Mobb Deep’s Havoc. “I come to life!” he repeats during the chorus, apparently referring back to the zombie myth of the intro.
‘Rampage’ is a Justice knockoff (or is it an homage?) that thrills but does nothing to crack the mold. ‘Nightcall’ sounds a little less fresh in context of the album, but it’s still a very powerful tune. In the end, ‘OutRun’ is a concept album with the conceptual consistency of a jello mold. It struggles (and sometimes captures, at least sonically) the essence of acts like Daft Punk and Justice that just have more heart.