It’s probably fair to say that no-one expected a concept album about the life of John DeLorean – creative genius behind the DeLorean DMC-12 car seen in Back to the Future and playboy whealer-dealer. But Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys hasn’t exactly played it by the book since SFA released their first single Hometown Unicorn ten year ago – a song about alien abductions.
Rhys works with LA hip-hop producer Boom Bip on Stainless Style to fashion an album that’s predictable only its weirdness: rapper Fat Lip’s biographical take on DeLorean; Rhys’ sleazy Welsh rapping; and electronic track Michael Douglas and his ‘mirrored sunglasses’ are among the stranger moments.
Stainless Style is at its best when it references the 80s futurism of Vangelis, Jan Hammer and Jean-Michel Jarre’s soundtrack work, but fuses tribal rhythms, electronica and electro effortlessly. It’s so rooted in the decade of decadence it could have been composed as the soundtrack for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Dream Cars’ ‘zero-gravity sheen’ notes DeLorean’s twin fascinations – cars and girls – a theme that’s repeated throughout the album and is evident again on electro beat of the album’s best track, Raquel, detailing DeLorean’s romance with Raquel Welsh.
His skirmishes with cocaine and shady dealings with the British government are also covered, as is DeLorean’s downfall in the eponymous closing track.
Meanwhile, somewhat off-beam is DeLorean’s realisation that he needs plastic surgery when he catches his own reflection in a film star’s sunglasses on Michael Douglas – both rather amusing and creepy at the same time.
Less successful are the detours into hip-hop, with Trick for Treat and Sweat Shop essentially abandoning the Delorean theme for generic bump’n’grind slabs of rap filth, although Luxury Pool actually works as a potted history of De Lorean Cars – ‘ambitions of an innovator, but the company burned up money like an incinerator’.
It’s also unclear where I Told Her on Alderaan – a song apparently about Star Wars – fits into the DeLorean biopic, but together with the ersatz emotion of lead single I Lust U it forms an irresistible pairing of accessible synth-pop.
Stainless Style evokes the production and tone of the era so well that it becomes the John DeLorean story via Blade Runner, Wall Street, 9 1/2 Weeks and Scarface – if narrated by a Welshman.
It could have all slipped into silly parody so easily, but Neon Neon remain for the most part straight-faced, determinedly modernist and often whistful, while Boom Bip’s satin-smooth production evokes the subject matter and its era perfectly.
There aren’t many car companies or impressarios that could inspire a whole album. A long-player concerning the demise of Rover or efficient manufacturing techniques of Toyota seems rather doubtful. What Stainless Style does is paint DeLorean as the last of his kind, a buccaneering visionary undone by his foibles – power, money, girls.
This is, after all, a man who designed the Pontiac GTO and DeLorean DMC-12; duped British and US governments out of significant amounts of cash; had an affair with a genuine screen goddess; almost went to prison in one of the biggest coke busts in history; and went head-to-head with the CIA and won.
It’s not a novel story – it’s money, sex and power all said and done – but it’s one unlikely to be repeated in vinyl format, and more unlikely to be pulled off with the élan of Stainless Style.