Limited edition clear blue**
Axe master Steve Vai once strapped individual lasers to each of his fingers, so that his hands would flash in the dark as he wailed away on some conceptually impenetrable solo. He eventually decided that light-up fingers weren’t enough, and upgraded to an LED-lined butcher’s smock. The spirit of such a decision, I think, is realizing that if you’re going to play music that sounds like someone’s idea of the neon ‘80s, you may as well look like a Tron extra. And Vai, whose Twitter picture shows him holding a glowing treble clef, doesn’t seem the self-conscious type.
Anthony Gonzalez is another musician who’s never been afraid of adjectives like "epic" or "cheesy," and whose music sounds like an "I Love the ‘80s" marathon. Upon watching "Midnight City" at Lollapalooza, a good friend described the saxophone solo as the Kool-Aid Man kicking through the wall. Contemplating the passion of this image—a slow-rolling "OH YEAAAAAH" from a big-boned cartoon pitcher—allows me to cherish a lot of M83’s music. At the same time, there are risks to accepting the "epic" label. There are no half-measures. At first, "Go!," the album’s latest single, seems like a characteristically "epic" M83 song. It opens with breathy vocals from French singer Mai Lan and lyrics that suggests one of those life-or-death romantic situations that teenagers always seem to find themselves in. There’s a countdown like "Space Oddity" that leads to a booming, festival-ready drum break, and a spoken word interlude sung by moody ghosts. It has all the hallmarks of grandiosity, but still, there's something missing.
Then, at the end, Vai bursts through to play a guitar solo made of cocaine and glowsticks. Is he wearing the laser smock? It sure sounds like it. The mood of the song flips entirely, as his solo becomes the colorfully explosive conclusion at the end of a perfunctory night of fireworks. It feels complete; it feels epic. Every EDM bro who has ever relished the spirit of the drop will hear this at a festival and sob. It’s not a joke, or ironic. In fact, it’s deathly serious. (It’s the difference between the purity of the Kool-Aid Man, and the referential irony of the "Family Guy" meme.) But there’s a spirit of liveliness in being this committed to this sound that I find magnetic. It’s like how metal bands can often have the best senses of humor, despite all the growling. There are aesthetic and moral arguments for subtlety, but let’s appreciate anyone willing to consider reason and whisper, No. If you’re on that level, Vai has an extra pair of laser gloves with your name on it.