Rather like Coca-Cola, Hekan Lidbo – who is Data 80 – has a definite formula from which he’s not too big on veering away. If you’ve heard a few Data 80 tracks, you have a good idea of what you’re going to get from the rest. But just as there’s a reason why Coke is The Pause That Refreshes, so Data 80 is, when you’re in the mood for it, exactly what you’ll want.
Not a trailblazer, Lidbo prowls around the house of electronica as though it were an amusement park at night. This is what happens when you get too attached to the “Main Street Electrical Parade” record as a child: Pounding beats, simple melodies; computer driven, alternately echoed and crunchy synth bass, boing boom tschak, play that funky music white noise.
Most of the lyrics are minimalist (“Space Age Love” contains exactly four lines–two of verse, two of chorus, lather, rise, and repeat). Many of the songs have their vocals obscured by vocodering anyway, but the catchy pop hooks of sides like “Baby, I Can Forgive” (one of two tracks here also featured on the Digital Disco compilation) are still center stage. At least a couple of the best tracks are instrumentals with like titles–“The Boy Who grew Up To Be A Boy” and “Every Pretty Girl’s Dilemma.”
What Data 80 reminds me of is a more monochromatic Art of Noise. Like those experimental synthesists, Lidbo came out of production and has a weakness for novelty effects to go with his beats and bass. However, his music, as crisply played, programmed and well constructed as it is, lacks the compelling richness and complexity of The Art of Noise’s strongest. He may yet have aspirations to join the ranks of the great alternative synth-popsters like Erasure – production wise, “Open Skies” wouldn’t sound out of place on that duo’s Wild!. Nevertheless, right now, he deserves singling out more for his production than what he produces (though Venus Hum should definitely give him a call).
If those are his aspirations, what this man needs is a singer/songwriting partner, an Andy Bell to his Vincent Clarke, a Tennant to his Lowe.
There are signs that he has it in him. “Never Trust A Pretty Face,” is a very appealing song. Almost lost underneath all the electronica is a piece of music worthy of comparison with Pet Shop Boys. You could almost miss it, though – like a beautifully written play that has it’s message obscured by a director who can’t keep her hands off it. Or a man crying in the kitchen at a big party.
However, if his aspiration is only to make accessible house/electronica music, he has already achieved it. In fact, I think I’ve just solidified my opinion of Data 80. If this is his peak, it’s great, but if it’s a check point along the way, it’s even better.
Data 80 contains few surprises, yet it’s not boring. Lidbo’s impressive skills behind the recording console prevent it from becoming so. It’s not guaranteed a place on any end of year lists (mine or anyone else’s) but it has a definite lock on the honorable mentions. And if a next CD builds on the most promising tracks here, that will be one to listen to.
In the immortal words of Nu Shooz, baby, I-I-I can’t wait.
Force Tracks: http://www.force-inc.com/ft/