Kavinsky – “Outrun”
The 1980’s are a decade that receives a lot of retroactive flak for its hairspray-heavy and acid-washed pop culture that emphasized big, gaudy songs and rumbling muscle cars. Despite this consensus though, 80’s throwback pop culture seems to fulfill some guilty niche for a considerable chunk of us music fans, and Kavinsky’s Outrun aims to drag that denim-clad skeleton into the daylight for all to see.
Of the small percent of you reading this who know who Kavinsky is, you probably know of the French electronic artist through “Nightcall” (co-produced by fellow Frenchman and Daft Punk member Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo), the thumping opening song for the movie Drive. With a sound that would fit perfectly in any sweaty Chicago house club thirty years ago, this brooding tune inspired Kavinsky to create an entire album around the concept of a half-man, half-car cyborg that was born from a car accident in a Testarossa on a rainy night. No, seriously.
Outrun sounds the way that you would expect an album named after a 1980’s arcade game to sound. Through thirteen songs, Kavinsky only occasionally uses featured vocal parts and never once deviates from using enormous blocky rhythms (kick on one and three, snare on two and four, repeat) and classic synthesizer riffs to bombard the listener until the wheels fall off of this cheesy (but self-aware) burn cruise from hell. The opener, “Prelude,” features a short narrative to acclimate the audience to exact how this young lover suddenly became half Ferrari, and from here on, you can practically smell the hairspray coming from your iPod, breaking only to include a few surprising and playful verses from Havoc (Mobb Deep) on “Suburbia.” “Rampage,” with its mix of strings, horns, and an ominous groove, sounds like a mashup between a chase scene from Adam West-era Batman and an old Justice jam, while songs like “Testarossa Autodrive,” “Deadcruiser,” and “Grand Canyon” are exciting on the first lesson but don’t reveal much more on repeated visits. This problem unfortunately becomes a motif throughout the album; it’s ridiculous and obnoxious in a fun way the first time, but after spending some time with it, Kavinsky’s shallow bag of tricks becomes all the more monotonous.
The final two tracks, “Roadgame” and “Endless,” provide a fitting bookend to the video game-turned-album-turned-B-movie. “Roadgame” plays like the climatic final boss battle only encountered several hours deep and after more than a few pocketfuls of change. This uber-drama provides a proper contrast to the cathartic denouement of “Endless.” You can practically see the credits rolling as Kavinsky finishes his narrative of the zomb-ified Deadcruiser, and depending on how long you’ve been listening to Outrun, they may be a welcomed sight.