Quick listings-type stuff first. I’ve been asked to tell you about the New York based electro-pop/disco-house artist Juan Maclean; how his new/great electropop/disco-house album is called The Future Will Come; how it’s the longawaited follow-up to 2005’s stellar Less Than Human LP; how it’s co-produced by the DFA’s James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy; how Juan is touring through Australia this Spring; how these days Juan more/less keeps his sci-fi/robot shtick to a minimum and, I guess in some kind of contrast, how The Future Will Come includes ten very human dance-pop songs, all with vocals, many featuring Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem, and many of that many having like this Human League meets disco feel to them. How, alongside Hercules & Love Affair’s self-titled debut, also courtesy DFA Records, Juan’s Future is set to become a pillar of downtown New York’s recent re-appreciation of vintage disco and early 90s disco-house and, for lack of a better turn, unironic, unadulterated, say-what-
you-mean, 100% pure love positive force dance music. How the mensch, if you will, no longer hides behind the machine.
So that’s what I’ve been asked to tell you. This is what I think though. The Future Will Come. It’s got this overblown Revelations slash cyberpunk slash Fall of the Roman Empire feel to it, doesn’t it. The Future Will Come. Sounds pretty heavy. Sounds like something somebody in Metallica would say, somberly, to a different somebody in Metallica. Like after a really rough rehearsal, something like that. Sounds like an Al Gore documentary. The Future Will Come For Everyone. Does not sound like: dancing around the point.
In case you haven’t heard, this is a beyond fucked-up time to be making music, let alone quality stuff. You likely can’t live off record sales; you run the ozone ragged taking the stuff on tour; hour by hour you’re forced to deal with the fact that at no point in human history has so much music been devoured so quickly—that fewer people will connect with your music, and that said connection will be brittle at best, regardless how much time you spent quantizing the drum sounds or how much cash it took to find an actual Wurlitzer instead of just using a plug-in like everyone else does. At once, people listen to more and less music than they ever have—so to be blunt, you really have to ask yourself, why me? Why am I putting this song out there? What’s my end game? Who the hell am I anyway? Pushing it. But I have next to zero tolerance anymore for music playing cumbucket to mere cleverness, serving the musician but no one else. It just seems vain and cheap and dishonest, and if you ask Juan, this vanity/dishonesty is one of the reasons he dropped out of indie rock more than a decade ago.
Point being, Juan here serves a purpose higher than himself. This is positive force dance music, impeccably produced, and at least for middle-class New York, as we watch ourselves being pushed further and further out of inner city limits, as we watch developers raze the downtown to make room for mile-high condos and banker-types cashing in on unremembered 80s cool, as we struggle with the fact that we maybe got got but we love it here anyway—for us, we need not the cool of electroclash or the macho effeminacy of disco-punk but rather something honest and unconflicted and (yes) transportingly positive. Something to tell us: Keep your head up. Take your mind off things. The future will come soon enough.
To that end Juan sticks to that one topic lyrical pop music exists for in the first place: love. Future has ten songs about relationships and love in all its steps and iterations: going home with somebody not because you like them but because “everybody needs some loving” (“No Time”); losing yourself in conversation to someone at a bar, then looking around and realizing it’s late and everybody except you two have left (“Tonight”); being betrayed or being jealous (“Accusations”); liking somebody who doesn’t like you (“One Day”); basking in the joy that, having met her, everything is finally right in your world—a momentary flight from day-to-day misery (“Happy House”).
Dance lyrics typically don’t have much to them, but Juan and Nancy spent a week in some cabin
upstate hammering them out, writing back and forth to one another, really thinking through the backs and forths and calls and responses. . . I don’t know, they work for me in a big Human League-ish way. Plus it gives Future this nice emotional arc: The album starts with the woman losing the man to his own vanity and self-destruction, and ends with the man, probably a different man, restoring her hope in love after all. “You saved me from a rainy day/And melted all the clouds in the sky,” she tells him. Talking to Juan, I get the sense he’s committed to this project of Not Hiding Behind Anything Anymore. Not just musically but cosmically. There are a billion moves to hide behind, to help us avoid our responsibilities too, to hedge our bets so we don’t embarrass ourselves, so beyond thinking The Future Will Come is aces, I also find Juan really brave for just putting himself out there like this. The melodies and lyrics and motives here are so bare and honest, nothing wry or clever to them, winning not by trick but by their sheer positivity. The move is brave, and it’s inspiring, and I hope you’ll join me in thanking Juan,
to nick his “Happy House” chorus, for being so damn excellent.
New York, NY