Deltron 3030

Band: Deltron 3030
Album: Deltron 3030
Best song: “Virus” is great. The Sean Lennon-assisted “Memory Loss” is exquisite. The title track is great.
Worst song: “Time Keeps On Slipping” isn’t strong.

Despite their being mostly just pains in the ass, I consider myself a fan of the concept album, up to and including rock operas. I love an artist that has the stones to try and tell a cohesive story — or group of stories or whatever — through rock music. It almost always fails — for every Tommy or Animals, there are 100 Operation: Mindcrimes and American Idiots. Nevertheless, the heyday of the rock opera — the mid-70s era that gave us Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Ziggy Stardust and Quadrophenia — is a pretty fun period.

Hip hop is, by nature, a storytelling genre. The genre experienced its greatest developments during late 1980s/early 1990s when gangsta rap painted pictures of inner city life. Evolving since, the genre has branched out to different places.

Cousin to Ice Cube, Del tha Funkee Homosapien is a peripheral star in “backpack” hip hop. Unlike the subgenre’s darlings, Del doesn’t normally do much in the way of social commentary, but rather rhyme about daily routines, housing situations or dudes with bad hygene. Del’s records are smart, but in an everyman, stoner-seeing-things way. As part of the Hieroglyphics clique, he did interesting records about everyday life, smoking weed and traveling.

In short, he’s talented and very likable.

Similarly, Dan the Automator is a bit of an oddball himself. Though he’s fallen off the map a little, his work in the late 1990s/early 2000s is a portrait of a master. His Handsome Boy Modeling School collaborations with Prince Paul are fantastic and the first Dr. Octagon record is, far and away, Kool Keith’s best work. The Gorillaz record, though overplayed, is wildly fun and the Lovage record is smooth.

Automator’s signature is a beat structure that moves somewhere between smooth (Lovage, some of the Handsome Boy stuff) to creepy and doomy (Deltron, Dr. Octagon). Augmented on Deltron 3030 by Kid Koala’s amazing turntable work, Automator’s beats shine.

Of course, being a concept album/rap opera, Deltron 3030‘s story isn’t really clear. It seems to mostly be a futurologist study in a totalitarian/corporate government in place in the 31st century, with Deltron Zero as the hero of the future. Deltron Zero battles against institutions on “Upgrade (A Brymar College Course),” tries to recruit the young (and battle apathy) on “Things You Can Do” and fight technology on “Memory Loss.” Like Terry Gilliam’s dystopian futures, Deltron 3030 gives us a bleak picture.

The title track sets the scene:

I used to be a mech soldier but I didn’t respect orders
I had to step forward, tell them this ain’t for us
Living in a post-apocalyptic world morbid and horrid
The secrets of the past they hoarded
Now we just boarded on a futuristic spacecraft
No mistakes black it’s our music we must take back

Seven minutes later, we learn that “half the world’s a desert” and “”Cannibals eat human brains for dessert.” Indeed, it’s The Road with better writing.

The album’s narrative is loose, but Del’s charisms and Automator’s beats make it entertaining. “Virus” is infectious, despite its calls to bring the United States back to a technophobia utopia wherein all records are “converted to papyrus.” “Positive Contact” has a dance beat and a stutter-step chorus. “Mastermind” has Del touting his ability to save humanity and “Madness” takes Dark Side‘s notion of insanity via technology and puts it over a breakdown beat.

The album drags — sixty minutes is probably too long for this concept — and the skits seem to be solely there for the purpose of getting friends on the record (the singer from Crash Test Dummies, Damon Albarn, Money Mark, etc.). But, the album is probably Del’s best and second to Dr. Octagonecologyst in the Automator catalog.

I’ve been listening to this record a lot for a few reasons. For one, I have a friend who has an almost Luddite view of economies and is a big supporter of a move back to tribal situations for humanity.

Moreover, I have been reading Slate’s excellent pieces on the possible end of America (home page here). A lot of the notions perpetuated Deltron 303 are possible scenarios. Seriously.

Now, I won’t live to see most of this stuff, but the prospects are fucking scary. I’m not in the same camp as my friend — localism is great, globalism is great, some combination is best — but, damn, this shit is scary. The example that dovetails with the record (specifically, the song “Virus”) is the Live Free or Die Hard scenario: What the hell happens if a computer virus wiped out the entire finance sector?

(I can’t even function when I lose network service for my iPhone. My cable went out last week for, like, an hour and I was going to have a nervous breakdown.)

The Slate series really brings up some scary possibilities. Global warming, no question, is going to fuck with us royally. One scenario has the Great Plains becoming a giant desert. Another has New York swallowed up by the Atlantic. God knows what’ll happen to my digs of DC.

My point is this: Humanity is pretty well fucked. Awesome.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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