Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"I bet that you look good on the dancefloor...but nowhere else": Mikrofisch's Masters of the Universe



Though Masters of the Universe by Mikrofisch released last year, I only just discovered it. I actually only just discovered Mikrofisch, so that could be part of the problem. Apparently, Mikrofisch began in 2001 when Mawe N. Klave and Silvi Wersi met in Cologne. Though they intended to cover The Smiths, they ended up producing original material, and a year later, they released their debut album Gleichstrom/Wechselstrom. After Wersi moved to London, the duo ended up recording Masters of the Universe over a three-year period, and the product is a magnificent anti-hipster shot in the arm. With lyrics like these, making countless music and pop culture references and observations about the trappings of being twenty-something in the 21st century, I'm surprised Klave and Wersi's tongues haven't come clean out the other side of their cheeks.

The album begins with Alien Monsters, a hilarious send-up of alien attack films complete with deadpan vocal delivery and rot-your-teeth twee background. Let's Kiss and Listen to Bis starts with a Peter Hook-like bassline and then '80s synthesizers kick in to augment a sweetness worthy of the twee mentioned. The narrators stalwartly refuse to make love to DFA; instead they want to regress into the '90s of their adolescence, including the Glaswegian pop-punksters. The '80s influence continues as arcade video game aesthetics, drum machines and vocoders cover the track Bad Hair Days with a retro veneer. Shifting into a more down-tempo feel, I Never Get Much Sleep on Weekdays emulates the catatonic state of the fatigued, apathetic twenty-somethings they sing about. The sarcasm and ennui drips off the chorus: "We're the twenty-somethings/We're the part-time punks/We got our records from Ebay and our clothes from H&M/Don't look back in anger/Today will okay/Tomorrow will be much like yesterday." The following track, Morrissey, Jeff Mangus, Stephin Merritt, John Darnielle, is a brilliant existential anthem for indie moper-loners everywhere.

Not only lonely indie songwriters get mentioned. Referencing the '60s model and muse of fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt Look-alikes pops about like a soft drink or a fun fair as it satirizes those hipster girls who come to gigs dressed like thrift store mods. Then, whizzing into life and making a personificative address to the theremin, Drum Machines Will Save Mankind uses fuzzy, lo-fi synths and drum machines to revivify the twee genre - it's a bit like if someone decided to use Darling Buds songs in an Atari game. Then disco is given an 80s 8-bit makeover in Disco Fantasy as Klave and Wersi's vocals drift dreamily over top. They even use the galactic leitmotif that often comes with disco and funk music. The album then shifts into pure power-pop bliss with We Love You, a cutesy song ostensibly sung from the perspective of crazy fans, but which adds a brilliant twist to the narrative. It features a screamy chorus akin to Robots in Disguise or Chicks on Speed.

This is followed by one of my favourite tracks on the album, The Kids Are All Shite, which namechecks Brit indie rock mediocrity in monotone vocal delivery against an intense bassline. It lampoons the MySpace generation perfectly, including their propensity to follow "indie" trends slavishly and to idolize NME bands whose music plays in supermarkets "before the sell-out's even started" and who "all look like Johnny Ramone." One of the best lines is "I bet that you look good on the dancefloor, but nowhere else." The chorus also reminds me melodically of Depeche Mode's New Life. The record takes a slower turn with See You Next Tuesday, a delightful, electro anti-ballad with interplay between male and female vocals. The tempo comes back up for Evil Customer, a perfect track for anyone who's felt stifled by their city or town or chained to a crap retail job - they create a perfect contrast between the pleasant sing-song of a polite front and the deteriorating mental state of the narrator that descends into Tourette's-like hysteria by the end. Just as astute as Evil Customer, (No One Listens To You When You've Got) Flat Hair is one of the better songs I've ever heard about the mind-sickening "reality" of reality TV; the verses are delivered with a cool detachment like that of Black Box Recorder's Sarah Nixey. The record concludes with Focus On It, the harshest song on the album with its dirty, crunchy beats and its play on and with hypnotic trance and house genres.

With the generous use of drum machines and minimal synth sounds, there's something lo-fi and homemade about the record; indeed, it was recorded in various bedrooms and living rooms. At the same time, it is the perfect aural document of the love-hate no-win situation of being an indie music lover in the noughties. Mikrofisch intelligently deconstruct the world they live in while paying unironic tribute to the music they love. You can download the entire album for free here with the band's blessing. This album is a bit like finding a He-Man action figure inside a Kinder egg: a nostalgic but nerdy cool surprise inside a sweet, waxy chocolate shell. The perfect gift for a generation who know too much to care very much.


Let's Kiss and Listen to Bis - Mikrofisch

The Kids Are All Shite - Mikrofisch

Evil Customer - Mikrofisch

8 comments:

Rol said...

The songtitles alone make those tracks worth a listen.

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