Step number one in the modern music biz: Get someone to pay attention to you. Step number two: Have some really good, fucking music to play for them. And thus we step into the world of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. -- two guys from Detroit who have a front row seat to the modern massacre of the corporate world we live in, and who realize that the tools of said world can not be denied, thus why not totally just name your rock band after a popular racecar driver. It's A Corporate World is much more than just an ironic statement about pop culture though, in fact it falls nothing short of being a new, landmark album in the genre-less sounds of modern independent rock music -- self-produced brilliant melodies, a seamless melding of technology and primal harmonies, and the lyrical laments of today's common man: broken and in denial. But if Corporate World is the sound of our present depression, then we're in for one hell of a party once the shit really hits the fan.
Defining themselves equally as much with fluttering layers of synths as with the underlying, soul swagger that permeates the drum-lines, this is what Oracular Spectacular would have sounded like if MGMT had any clue what they were doing at the time. Engaged in a far deeper and much more song-oriented world than the "Kids" kids will ever reach though, DEJJ are The Beatles to The Monkees of MGMT. There's something familiar about Corporate World, but far more expansive and perfected -- "Nothing But Our Love" is the same dream-pop, swing pulse that has enraptured the indie world as of late, yet far thicker and crisper; not as fuzzy and far less opiated. There's a drive to these songs that escalates them far past the other teams of yahoos who eat too much acid listening to Panda Bear and who give daily prayer to the last Dirty Projectors album -- not saying that's not something these guys totally don't do.
"An Ugly Person on a Movie Screen" is built upon a pop sense of hidden complexity that hasn't sounded so natural since Tears for Fears controlled things 25 years ago. And lyrically, along with "Skeletons," they have the ability to convey the secret, collective dilemmas of the modern, normal dude like few of their peers can. This residual honesty makes the transitions from loud thumpers like "Corporate World" into delicate ruminators like "If It Wasn't You…" sound instinctual and ideal. "Wasn't You" may be the true masterpiece of the album. A tingling, digital wash opens the song as it infuses with the sound of a stick being dragged across a picket fence. Continuing throughout, as well as with added clunks of other children's toys, the echoes of untainted, youthful splendor are the perfect balance to the poignant lyrics of bittersweet self-realization. It's like listening to your iPod while playing Pooh Sticks after your girlfriend just dumped you.
"We Almost Lost Detroit" is both spiritually and sonically the ideal cover for them. They manage to maintain the funk of Gil Scott-Heron's original, while adding a melody line and faster tempo to make it not only something all their own, but also the rocking closer that ties the entire album together. Be it by precision or by magic, It's a Corporate World is a brilliantly crafted work, and leaves a looming shadow for whenever their next album arrives. But this is an album with no regard for the future, only an embrace of the unmasked present and a firm belief that, as sung in "Vocal Chords": "life's too short to play it safe."