This Sunday Bionic Welcomes DFA's The Juan Maclean...
Ask any diabolical mastermindâ€”Dr. Evil, Sideshow Bob, the Monarchâ€”and theyâ€™ll tell you, bringing the world to its knees is a lot like hosting a successful dinner party: It requires careful preparation and forethought. A plan. It may take years before all the pieces fall into place.
But once they do? Global domination should be easy as pie.
Since the turn of the 21st century, DFA club music maestro Juan MacLean has been laying groundwork. First, there were killer singles, from â€œBy The Time I Get to Venusâ€ in 2002, to last yearâ€™s international mega hit & critical year-end favorite â€œHappy Houseâ€ as well as the â€œThe Simple Lifeâ€. There was a debut full-length (Less Than Human, 2005); remixes for colleagues like Air, Chicken Lips, Daft Punk, David Gahan, Matthew Dear; international tours with Cut Copy and Shocking Pinks; and DJ gigs from Telluride to Tel Aviv.
Now comes the next stage of the operation, The Future Will Come. While the second full-length from The Juan MacLean may sound effortless in its execution, donâ€™t be deceived. This record was made in accordance with a very careful plan. â€œBefore going into production of the album, before I wrote anything, I had aesthetic and conceptual guidelines in mind,â€ admits MacLean. â€œI stuck to those, and they panned out.â€
Phase One: â€œI was very much influenced by going on tour with my live band for a couple years.â€ Rather than retreat to a recording studio in Woodstock, NY, and toil in solitude, he brought along Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel (also known to DFA fans as Holy Ghost!) and drummer extraordinaire Jerry Fuchs to lay down parts. â€œI had already done enough on my own,â€ concedes the seasoned studio whiz. â€œWith very rare exceptions, music is always made better by having the influence of other people.â€
Which brings us to Phase Two: â€œThe next guideline was revisiting The Human League,â€ reveals MacLean. And not the early, stodgy, â€œBeing Boiledâ€ incarnation either. The bones of that model were long ago picked clean. No, the sounds and songs of The Future Will Come emulate the best of The Human League v2, the lineup responsible for the 1981 international bestseller Dare.
MacLean makes no apologies for this creative choice. â€œIn my career as The Juan MacLean, my guiding principle was to start out more dance-y and instrumental, and someday bow out making flat-out, three-and-a-half minute pop songs.â€ Right now, he estimates this creative arc is at its midpoint. The perfect time to craft a set of tracks to rival â€œDonâ€™t You Want Me,â€ then. Watch the effect the opening bars of â€œHappy Houseâ€ have on a packed night club; the exuberance it triggers in listeners easily matches the giddy heights of that time-tested synth-pop classic.
â€œI wanted to do an album with male-female interplay in the vocals,â€ MacLean continues. Rather than go down to the local disco and recruit a couple hipster girls who looked good dancing, he tapped creative foil and DFA mainstay Nancy Whang (also an agent of LCD Soundsystem) instead. She was a willing co-conspirator. â€œThe very first song we worked on, he already had his vocal part, and wanted mine to serve as a counterpoint,â€ she remembers. â€œFrom there, I could hear the male-female call-and-answer.â€
Phase Three was, for better or worse, simply a natural progression. â€œOne consequence of touring and DJing so much, and always being awayâ€”and this was true for Nancy as wellâ€”is the trail of destruction in personal and romantic relationships,â€ says MacLean. â€œContrary to the general lyrical tone in our world of music, I wanted to be as direct, honest and sincere as possible.â€ Humor remains integral to the bandâ€™s aesthetic, but it is not nearly so arch or pointy. No air quotes hover around the sentiments expressed herein.
With these points set, Juan and Nancy wrote and recorded the album quickly. Rather than elongate ideas into epic 12-inch singles, they strived to keep sounds and structures crisp and succinct. Focus was maintained via ruthless edits and repeated spins of â€œSexyBack.â€ The results range from the bittersweet parry-and-thrust of â€œOne Dayâ€ to the android R&B of â€œThe Station.â€ At the furthest extreme, the spare, desolate â€œHuman Disasterâ€ serves as a chilling contrast to the climatic reprise of â€œHappy House.â€
Whang acknowledges that the polish and precision of The Future Will Come may catch some devotees off guard. â€œI know diehard Juan MacLean fans are going to be surprised, because the material is so vocal, and much more pop.â€ But she does not fear resistance from the masses. Nor should she. Fully-realized and flawlessly executed from start to finish, The Future Will Come stands poised to disarm millions of listeners.
World domination? Itâ€™s as easy as 1-2-3. Just ask The Juan MacLean.