tremble clef

Monday, September 10, 2007

Plastic Operator, "The Long Run" (2007)

"Tomorrow has hit me by surprise/Is it me, or did today just pass me by?" On "The Long Run," Pieter Van Dessel, who's one half of Plastic Operator, sings of how overwhelmed he feels by the speed of life. It's not anything especially drastic or even specific, but merely a sense that there's always more he could do: "I am aware of the jokes I should have said/I am conscious of the laughter I didn't get/And sometimes I promise to be good/But it all depends on swiftly swinging moods."

In the face of these problems, the song doesn't launch into any grand inspirational homily. The solution, contained in the chorus when it's not implied by the determined dee-dee-dee-dee keyboard riff, is very modest. "It should be alright in the long run," he says. "It should be alright if I'm holding on/It takes a while to get up when things let you down/True, but I've got time." There's not even the certainty of a "will," just the vague but still comforting sense that things, eventually, should be alright. If we think about it, it's not a totally convincing promise. Given that many todays are passing us by, how can we be certain that when we fall and/or things let us down, we will have the "time" to slowly get back up? We can't, of course. But we soldier on. We take shelter in the perspective afforded by the phrase "in the long run" -- the coping mechanism that is the phrase "in the long run" -- because if we don't, it becomes difficult to go on. As coping mechanisms go, it's a damn good one (except for those moments when the future terrifies rather than reassures us, that is).

"The Long Run" closes Plastic Operator's Different Places album, which is, on the whole, a pretty wonderful record. Like many people, I first heard of the band in 2004 when Fluxblog featured "Folder" (a fact that the band sort of recognizes in their official bio), and three years later the duo has put out a long player that is probably the second best old school synthpop album of the year -- thanks to tracks like "Peppermint," with its skittering breakbeat, or the understatedly moving "Home 0207," or the female-chant-over-a-Gorillaz-beat "Parasols" (although the song misses a great opportunity to end each title line with an echo of "asol, asol, asol"), or the infectious tale of a woman who is "Singing All The Time." (The best is not Dntel's, even if Jimmy Tamborello's other project has become the yardstick in recent years for great dinky-dink electropop with a melancholic mumbling male vocalist. It's this, if you must know.)


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