As incredibly pathetic as it may be, my relationship with electronic music is tenuous at best, and is so for reasons that are admittedly suspect. For someone who fashions himself a man of well-informed musical taste, I spend an unjustifiably large amount of any given day taking potshots at the many varied electro-indie-DJ hybrids sprouting up like crabgrass and thistle in my punk-faithful garden.
Truthfully, I’m more annoyed by the fact that I’ve never been moved by electronic beats and synthesized rhythms than I am by the music itself (for the most part). I’m bothered that I don’t get the music. Sure, as a young boy I was on the ground floor with the Crystal Method, the Chemical Brothers, and the Prodigy, but I never got on the electronica elevator and, as a result, everything between then and now is completely foreign to me. If you’re as pretentious a dork as I am, this lack of understanding seriously hinders your ability to simply sit back and enjoy some music with which you are somewhat unfamiliar.
However, no sooner than I make such a statement does an exception pop up in the form of Starfucker’s Reptilians, an album that though at first glance is indistinguishable from the absurd litany of American electro-pop indie bands, subtly rises above the fray by infusing clean beats with the wall-of-crystalline-sound approach that made 60s psychedelic music genuinely psychedelic.
From the opening notes of “Born”, Reptilians perfectly captures the ambiance of a synthetic sunny day in a digital dandelion field, something the Flaming Lips themselves have not successfully done since 2002’s “Fight Test”, and the band continues a seamless meld of refrain-oriented pop and airy, complementary rhythms through the next four straight tracks to “Death as A Fetish”. The surprising consistency of the album doesn’t let up until you’re well into bonus track territory.
But then again, I really don’t know any of these things to be true. I have no idea what makes Reptilians better than other albums, or if it’s even better than them to begin with. All I can really do is research incessantly, something I’m wont to do anyway, and find out interesting trivia about the album, like the fact that much of its drums are human, in the form of Kiel Corcoran, whom lead singer Joshua Hodges calls a “human metronome”, or that the spoken voice heard over tracks like “Mystery Cloud” is that of the late religious philosopher Alan Watts.
I did, however, send the album over to a much more electronically knowledgeable friend – my electronic taste tester – whose blessing I’d need to even mention Starfucker in mixed company for fear of exposing myself as someone who knows nothing about indie electronica. Within a few days, he informed me that he had already added, among others, “The White of Noon” to his ongoing personal playlist. In that regard, Starfucker’s Polyvinyl debut is an intemperate success in managing to quickly convince increasingly fickle electronica connoisseurs of the band’s legitimate prowess while feeling alive enough to draw in a vast array of hard-headed rock n’ roll, metal, and punk stalwarts with the itch for psychedelia.