Okay. Someone had to do it. Someone had to let you know that there exists an album of such concept, of such unparallelled genius it only comes around once in a lifetime, possibly because nobody would have ever expected it. This album is OutRun by Kavinsky, and it’s a concept album about a man, his car, their unfortunate union and the ensuing musical zombie-dom. In fact, it’s sort of an opus for Kavinsky himself, a fictionalized version of the man behind the machines, Vincent Belorgey. Though, it is fortunate for us, the listener, because men-cars make some pretty sweet retro-synth tunes. Kavinsky is already known for this Sega Genesis, synth-pop chip-tuned binary business as a number of his releases dating back to 2007 show up in OutRun. I guess you can say it’s his thing. He’s hardly a one-trick pony because like most other synth jockeys, they make one song a year and remix ad nauseum. So when a whole album comes out, it’s time to get down. OutRun is the product of Kavinsky’s years of plinking around with a retro tune that just grows and grows. It’s cool, it’s catchy, it’s kind of weird.
The album kicks off with a Knight Rider-like intro: low voice, and synthy-background music. When I first started listening to the album, I sort of chuckled, because even though I considered the album title, the album cover (a man standing next to an 80s Ferrari Testarossa) and even heard some tracks before, I didn’t expect the album to carry an actual concept. I just expected an amalgam of beats. Even more, as the album progressed, I noticed that few tracks are really club-ready. I’m perfectly fine with this, it was just another surprise, and we can all rest assured that we’ll be avoiding any number of amateur DJ nights that will feature in-part a coked-up Kavinsky piece poorly designed to wub and rattle your face off.
Instead, OutRun is a moody piece. I feel things when I listen. Listening to “Odd Look” I feel like I am cruising a quiet highway in the hills, late at night, contemplating life and my coolness. “Rampage” and “Testarossa Autodrive” nail this feeling perfectly as well. “Rampage” channels Knight Rider like none other. Things are about to happen. Synthesizers have such an incredible ability to create tension, I admit I really enjoy the shrill cycling found throughout the album. “Testarossa Autodrive” is a great pacing track, it just goes and goes, it feels fast, in control and cool. It’s no wonder a remix showed up in Gran Turismo 5. Speaking of fast and cool, the first released single “ProtoVision” just rips. The synths roll, the beat machine bumps and the electric guitar wails. Being a sucker for anything guitar I was hooked. Bent notes and whammy bars galore. To reference another 80s staple, it had a heavy Miami Vice vibe. The biggest hit on the album came well before the album was even released. “Nightcall” appeared in the opening credits of the movie Drive, starring that dreamy Ryan Gosling. It’s a nice little song, a dreamy-cool conversation between a beautiful sounding woman and a zombie-car who wants to drive her around. Yeah.
So it seems the 80s are cool again. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time we observe 80s sounds leaking back into our daily entertainment lives. The sound went from being MTV-cocaine-black-on-gold-Tony Montana-blazers-with-shoulder-pads mainstream pop, to dead tired, over-engineered crap and has reemerged like a phoenix, rising from Arizona, albeit in a far more cool and indie way. Hell, as I write this in sweatpants I’m feeling cooler already. Just like Mikey’s brother Josh Brolin in The Goonies, he wore sweatpants! So go get some blow and start spinning OutRun … no skip the blow. Stay in school. And, um, buckle up.