Sep 10, 2011
These songs are like snapshots; the wet, chemical alchemy of real-life emotions frozen and blurred, crystalized and captured in velvet-grained silver gelatin. That's not a knock. Good pop distills the messy ambiguity of life and rearranges it into perfectly balanced nuggets of time and sound, allowing us to romanticize our pain, or even see it as heroic. (Those old vinyl 45s are legendarily fetishistic, and by their very nature as self-contained physical objects allow us to externalize, manipulate, and catalog our emotions from a safe distance. It's not for nothing that these sleeves all feature the detached, isolated, context-free iconography of romantic cinema. Starlets looking as cool, cold and untouchable as actual stars, and yet here you are turning them over in your hands.)
My experience with so much of C-86 is about what it's like to feel a feeling instead of being the direct embodiment of feeling itself, which is why so much of it evokes things safe and wistful. It's instant nostalgia (I miss the comfort of being sad, indeed) ionically charged with the symbolism of things acutely felt, existing in the infra-thin moment between loss and possibility.
That tart crispness becomes a roundabout way of eroticizing isolation—the tingling sensation of being wrapped in a warm sweater on a cold day and getting goosebumps anyway. While rock and roll of the past aimed directly at the groin (and what it might be doing in the vicinity of someone else's), C-86 is a generation or more removed from the 60's pop it reveres and acknowledges that temporal distance by underpinning the physical and emotional distance between the singer and subject, and between the song and its listener. To make up for the carnal absence it prefers to idealize loss itself the same way it idealizes the white pop and girl group sounds of the 60's. Everything is perfect in memory. Your skin can feel just as electric as your ears when being touched by invisible waves.
I think this is why the majority of C-86 and twee bands of the 80's existed primarily on singles. The songs on albums have to relate to each other, but singles come to you as individuals. You can have private relationships with them. They're meant to be handled. Singles are flirts, constantly demanding your attention to flip them on your record player, or pore over their enigmatic sleeves. Albums belong to the world, but singles are yours, no matter how many other people have one.
But, whatevs. The James Dean Driving Experience are actually pretty upbeat (and as evidenced by their name, a bit cheeky), but mostly dreamy. It's perfectly realized jangle-pop in the vein of the Sea Urchins, Remember Fun, or Hey Paulette. The download includes the singles and eps for World Weary & Wise, Lonely Hearts XI Versus The Rest Of The World, Dean's Eleventh Dream, Clearlake Revisited, and Sean Connery.