It starts with pink and green lazers criss-crossing the sky, billowing clouds of dry ice, and a spotlight picking out two hooded, beshaded figures. Above the EnormoStadium stage, a house-sized Commodore 64 scrolls out the words: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, to give you DATAROCK."
"‘The Blog" is a nice opening," Fredrik Saroea, frontman of Norwegian dance-rockers Datarock is telling me. "Because it's almost apocalyptic, there's something grandiose about the sound."
Amidst a sensory overload of canned applause, nattering samples from nu-media godheads Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, and floating on elegiac Sign O' The Times-synths, Datarock announce their arrival in the Information Age in spine-tingling, anthemic form.
"We know this blog is long-awaited!" Fredrik bellows at a virtual stadium of cheering Datarock fans, "Just couldn't be done on C64s!" It's an attempt by technology-fetishists Datarock to romanticise the early utopian promise of the Internet, before it became something that people just took for granted and got annoyed by. It's total retrofuturism. It is the opening statement of a time-travelling album that ramraids the years 1975 through 1985 with the power of modern studio technology.
Datarock Datarock, the party album of 2005 and Datarock's debut, mixed relentless punk-funk with warped Happy Mondays humour. RED has lost none of Fredrik and musical partner Ketil Mosnes' aptitude for so-classic-you-must-have-
heard-it-before hooks, but this follow-up is an altogether more concept-driven beast.
Take "Give It Up." The lead single was actually an idea for a music video before it became a song, paraphrasing "Beat It," "Bad," the 1961 film West Side Story and the 1996 film of Romeo & Juliet.
"You have a dance battle," explains Fredrik, "where a Datarock gang meets the bad guys, and we have a dance off, and then everybody becomes the Datarock gang. And I'm like Mercutio, trying to tell Romeo to shape up, snap out of it, give it up." "Thing is, just singing a song about dancing... it's too simple. Everyone's gonna dance anyway. So it's nice to do something insane in the lyrics, like paraphrasing, you know, Romeo & Juliet!"
As an album, RED is a thoroughly unashamed loveletter to the influences that made Datarock what they are today. DEVO, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Haruki Murakami, Don Delillo's White Noise, Scott Walker and the works of John Hughes and Peter Greenaway are all referenced, but "True Stories" is the most explicit: a song made out of nothing but song titles. Talking Heads' song titles.
It works as a tribute precisely because it plays the kind of mind games with authorship that classic Talking Heads ? who once wrote a song based on an NME review describing what Joy Division sound like; a band they'd never heard ? pioneered back in the day, and not just because it sounds like Talking Heads. If anything, Datarock's music seems to be informed less by the way Talking Heads sound, as much as the way David Byrne dances.
And then there's "Molly," a love song to Molly Ringwald. If you haven't got it yet, a theme is emerging. "Molly Ringwald is still out there somewhere," laughs Fredrik. "We need to find her. She was the It Girl for a very special period of time in my heart!"
All people of our generation know of the Eighties is half-remembered pop videos and the deathlessly young heroes and heroines of teen films. Pop cultural fluff that is meaningful, because invoking them now, as adults, is a sharp reminder from a more innocent time that we should ALWAYS be having more fun than we are right now.
Think of how the sublime "Amarillion" sounds, EXACTLY like how it would feel to skate along the ice to an A-ha soundtrack. Suddenly everything is graceful, sleek and fast, and you're Morton Harkett. On ice.
An A-ha-quoting love song, the titular "Amarillion" is the avatar name of a Second Life character, pursued by Fredrik from the safety of his college dorm. Throughout RED, Eighties and modern-day references are intertwined and mangled. "You can point at the early Eighties and say ‘personal computers!', ‘information society!', ‘cultural relativism!'" Fredrik says. "What I wanted to do with the whole album was to say this day and age is just as interesting as the early Eighties."
And a big part of what makes this day and age interesting to Datarock is our love-hate relationship with technology and communication. RED's centerpiece, "The Pretender." is a clarion call pop song that sounds like marching band music made to mobilize the entire Internet. "I am The Pretender!" Fredrik announces, "In love with my avatar!", before reeling off a list of the multiple duplicitous identities available to him online ? North Korean? South American? Presbyterian? He is a believer, praying for a better world. Real sweet and tender. He's what you're looking for.
"We are not political," Datarock state on their own MySpace blog, "we are more like cultural researchers, with a shared fascination for events and phenomena that have changed popular culture and music."
Of course, the futuristic, anachronistic RED isn't just a socio-political tract about the fluid nature of identity in the Internet age. It's also a eulogy for nostalgia ? an abstract notion in an era of instant data retrieval ? and the party album of 2009.
It ends with the world turning to pixels, Datarock zooming off in a flying DeLorean to a better age, a past that never really existed except in their heads. The world ends with you, cheering and dancing like you can dance through time.