Kavinsky, ‘OutRun’ – Album Review
‘Drive‘ is something truly rare: a well-done homage. It’s a movie about looking cool — and about Ryan Gosling‘s face and Carey Mulligan’s face and the pink-tinted mise en scéne underworld where the two go to do sexy battle before a backdrop of exploding cars.
In that context, Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’ sounded damn good. The theater-shaking stomp-march beat, incomprehensible robot vocals and vague 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 the concept of homage are a lot 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 driver main character (ostensibly Kavinsky himself). ”On a thunderous night along a ragged coast, a mysterious red car came down,” intones a flat-voiced 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 to have its own dance, features some fine arpeggio work. Its diseased-sounding vocals, grandma-ish and indecipherable, are one of the coolest things on this album.
The gulf between that song, which nails the ‘Miami Vice’ vibe, and the silliness of ‘Suburbia,’ however, is wider than the Seine. “I cut these fools like pizza pies with extra cheese,” claims Havoc, a member of Queens rap crew Mobb Deep. “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.