If there is one man you wouldn’t normally associate with the slick, materialistic 1980s, it would be Gruff Rhys, frontman of shaggy-haired psychedelic popsters Super Furry Animals. So you’d be forgiven a quick double-take on your first listen to Neon Neon’s “Stainless Style,” a collaboration with Los Angeles-based electro producer Boom Bip based on the life of legendary automobile engineer John DeLorean.
The specter of The Human League stalks through the album, with Rhys duetting amid icy synthesizers with Welsh singer Cate Le Bon on the recent single “I Lust You.” Fans of Australian band Cut Copy will recognize the fusion of electropop with ’80s soft rock, best evidenced by “I Told Her on Alderaan,” a spiritual cousin of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Neon Neon go further though, collaborating with musicians as diverse as British twee-popsters The Magic Numbers and L.A. rapper Fatlip (formerly of The Pharcyde).
Rhys subverts the slick surface of “Stainless Style” with his own brand of twisted, offbeat pop, infusing the electro-funk of “Trick For Treat” with an air of Middle Eastern sounding psychedelic mystery and harmonizing with himself on the title track like a mournful, Celtic Beachboys. It’s perhaps telling that, like Rhys’ idol Howard Marks, DeLorean’s downfall came after drug-smuggling allegations.