The Incredible Moses Leroy
. . .Become the Soft.Lightes
embers Only jackets, product-messy shag cuts, Puma low-tops: it’s official, the 80s are back. Perhaps we all hoped the one decade so many of us associated with bland, technologically-weakened dance music and Molly Ringwald movies would be skipped in the ever-cycling circularity that bears out new trends in fashion and music. But nope, we had the punchy retro-spunk of the seventies and now it seems that the world has loosened its limbs for the sparkling dance trends of the Bret Easton Ellis years. With its return comes a renewal of questions about the presence of irony in music. When is an artist paying a wry debt he knows he doesn’t owe to a trend he always found crude or insignificant? When is an homage too damn treacle to be taken at face value? And, most importantly, what the hell is with the Darkness?
All these issues (except for the Darkness question) are settled quite quickly on The Incredible Moses Leroy Become the Soft.Lightes. A nom-de-plume of sorts for pop artist Ron Fountenberry, IML’s second album thumps with all the landmarks of eighties’ electro-pop: tinny drug programming, wavering synths, and plenty of castrato singing. Immediately, the question arises whether his album is yet another satirical allusion to the Reagan era, but these cheap, gasoline-fire sentiments are too bug-eyed with puppy love for wry commentary. With swooning couplets and tooth-decaying melodies dominating its twelve songs, the album gives voice to only the most dead-brained childish glee. There’s no smirk lurking underneath Fountenberry’s permasmile, and you begin to wonder by album’s end whether he’s capable of anything else. Failing to balance his whimsical drippings with sardonic appreciation, this becomes cotton candy homage. Only nobody would claim credit for the movement being toasted.
Along with a charging beat and spring-air chimes, “Everybody’s Getting Down” lets you know quite early we ain’t dealing with Shel Silverstein. It contains such mind-blighting couplets as “Everybody’s in a Car / Everybody’s in a Car” and “It’s sleepy like a sleeping bag / With the bed bugs at your toes.” Sung in Fountenberry’s falsetto, it fails to invoke the nostalgic reclamations so necessary in a sugary ditty like this. If this is wistful longing for innocence, it is the innocence of the disabled: prolonged and unending.
“Transmission C” is bound to be the wide-eyed introduction to a future Murray/Ellis-Bunim production. I can just see the typecast college kids leaping through the air against a robin’s-egg-blue sky, singing in chorus to the lines “Because it must be out there somewhere / It’s in everything / It’s in every way.”
With its soft sleepy electric piano and billowing synths, “L.O.V.E.” might be the next millenium’s lullaby, the chime tinkling from infant mobiles across the states. Fountenberry’s voice is pushed up against your ears with an immediacy that is too tranquil to be calming, while he chokes you with molasses on lines like “It’s as soft as a feather / Two birds singing together”.
Perhaps the in-joke here is not one of irony, but product mismanagement. Released as a Happy Meal give-away or a Raffi-replacement, The Incredible Moses Leroy Become the Soft.Lightes might have found its proper audience. The apple-cheeked jubilance and teenage-diary earnestness is enough to make you blush. We should put it back under Fountenberry’s mattress before he knows we’ve read it.