After last week saw the end of a lull in my Tuesday Ten postings, I’m hoping this month to actually do one each week. This week’s was inspired by the mention on Popjustice (complete with sample) of Röyksopp‘s forthcoming single The Girl and The Robot, which appears to be something of a rather brilliant pop song, and then there was the timely, but too late for me, showing of I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK last night, a film I still haven’t seen.
Needless to say, this week’s is about robots.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Human After All
Where else to start but with two crazy French guys who only appear in shiny outfits with enormous robot helmets in public, provide reputedly one of the greatest live shows in existence, and have a track called Robot Rock? Somehow taking elements of the future-past in all their influences, and for over a decade now have been leading the way in showing the future for commercial house music, perhaps. It remains one of my biggest musical regrets that I never saw these guys, particularly on the Alive 2007 tour. Either way, I’m not sure you can get much closer to people wanting to be robots in the public eye than these guys.
/Metal Fingers In My Body
By no means the only track this band did involving robots, but this is most certainly the most notorious – particularly it’s not worksafe in a billion years video. Don’t let the graphic animated sex in the video distract you, though – this is a fantastic bit of retro-electronics, about, well, getting your kicks with a robot.
/All Is Full of Love
Talking of cyber-fetishism, this video perhaps took the ideal to whole new levels. The song itself is nothing to do with robots – according to the astoundingly detailed Björk website it’s actually about re-discovering the joys of spring – but the video is rightly remembered probably just as much as the song. Chris Cunningham turned this track into an even more sensual and elegant feast by adding the infamous video that features the construction and then falling in love of two Björk-bots. Frankly one of the best videos ever made, even if it is a little unsettling, perhaps.
/The Dresden Dolls
Still with sex with mechanical things, then there is Amanda Palmer’s rather marvellous use of mechanics as a metaphor – in that she would prefer a mechanical boyfriend rather than a “real” one, as it would appear that she has a habit of, er, breaking them.
/II – The Final Option
There is no shortage of industrial artists writing songs about becoming robots, cyborgs, or simply being robots. However, I have other tracks to cover, so I’ll have to have just a couple of industrial tracks here. First one? An old Die Krupps album track, detailing the reasoning behind shedding an imperfect human form and becoming a machine, to a stomping, driving metallic industrial rhythm: Weakness: these days are over / Old flesh: replaced by shiny armour
/Tactical Neural Implant
And the second one? Probably one of my favourite FLA tracks – actually, scratch that, one of my favourite industrial tracks, period – this is one of the few slower-paced FLA tracks I can think of. It seems to be creating a nightmarish idea of being a robot, being a slave to someone, or something else, sounds creepy as fuck and is fucking amazing live.
/Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
/Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
I’ve never even pretended to understand what the fuck Wayne Coyne is on about most of the time, and as his band’s career has continued closer and closer to the mainstream, I’m sure it’s getting harder than ever. Needless to say, fuck knows why Yoshimi is saving us from the pink robots. Either way, it’s mad, pretty-much-incomprehensible but bloody marvellous at the same time.
/Is A Robot
Not strictly about robots, but another metaphor. I’ll let the brilliantly detailed hotellounge.com explain: The lyrics of Is A Robot are about people who think they are different, while they really are reacting according to a “preprogrammed” pattern. The song is marvellous, by the way – one the highlights of the band’s latest album.
Another artist that uses the robotic idea extensively, at least in the live arena, is Coreline. After nearly stealing the show at Infest 2008 with dancing cardboard robots and a great performance, it’s hard to associate Coreline with anything but robots any more. And this track, in particular, is perhaps a little more mechanical as opposed to the usual organic feel that the artist’s tracks have, with more rhythmic structure and order to it. And yes, going on last year, he probably does build better robots, too.
/The Man Machine
…and where else to finish but with one of the true originators of electronic music? Kraftwerk, of course, have used robots onstage instead of themselves for this track for years, and the video does the same. It’s not about the wish to become a robot – this is more about the subservience of robots to humans, how they are programmed and instructed to do things on behalf of humans. And for a track that is now over thirty years old, it sounds pretty damned fresh still, too…