There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
“The future ain’t what it used to be,” Yogi Berra once said. But when it comes to dystopian futures, pop culture has been remarkably consistent—for decades artists have been sharing pretty much the same vision of the apocalypse. Earlier this year, director Neil Marshall’s overlooked genre gem Doomsday featured a gang of marauders whose look was cribbed wholesale from The Road Warrior, from the quaint rooster mohawks to the BDSM leather fixations. The film’s lack of originality made the film no less enjoyable—there was a palpable sense of fun, and enough tweaks to the formula to justify its existence. In a similar fashion, Tucson synth-punk outfit Digital Leather explores well-mined veins of dark, sci-fi-themed electronic rock. But its latest release, Sorcerer, succeeds thanks to its ability to mix up tempos and styles, and the band injects each song with hooks more infectious than the airborne Reaper virus. The electronic instrumentation and disaffected vocals on the album’s closer, “Black Flowers From the Future,” recall synth-punk pioneers Suicide and the Units, but Digital Leather adds its own crackling stabs of synthesizer and a garage rock enthusiasm. Befitting an album obsessed with circuitry and robots, Sorcerer has a binary arrangement: The first half features Digital Leather honcho Shawn Foree working solo (save a Flying Lizards-like vocal contribution by Devon Disaster on “You Will Fall”), while the second features Foree and a full band, including former Reatards member Ryan Wong on drums, performing a live set at Gonerfest 2 in Memphis, Tenn., in 2006. The home-recorded songs from the first half are generally more minimal and subdued, but a lively cover of the Urinals’ “Hologram” proves that the solo songs are anything but listless. “Simulator” launches Sorcerer with a keyboard drone that sounds like a swarm of robotic bugs before Foree, sounding slightly robotic and British, asks “Simulator, Simulator/Can you please adjust the fader?” The most notable track, “Modulated/Simulated” is the slowest and moodiest, evoking early Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Tubeway Army, as Foree sings mournfully of being unable to feel anything on his “robot skin” and that he’s living in a “modulated, simulated, painless place called love.” It’s a sad little number, though not as sad as the fact that “She Had a Cameltoe,” a rollicking, catchy screecher from the live set, is saddled with a title and lyrics more worthy of the Bloodhound Gang. Luckily, Sorcerer has more songs like “Scar Me” and “Dance Til Dead,” which balance dissonance and danceability. Digital Leather’s brand of synth-punk is worth hearing today, even if it doesn’t substantially add to yesterday’s version of the end of tomorrow.