Thursday, August 25, 2016

Electric Youth & College - A Real Hero

They say history repeats itself, and in many ways they are right. Musically they are right.

There are a lot of reasonable explanations as to why trends and fads from the past can become popular again but I suspect the most powerful motivation is nostalgia. Young people are very impressionable, and your first love will typically carry greater weight on your heart then the loves that follow, and again I am talking about music here. So when people grow up and become creative persons there is often a very powerful urge to embrace the sorts of sounds and songs they adored when they were young, and this is probably why every decade has a resurgence approximately twenty or thirty years after the fact. If you do some quick math you should be quick to realize I am currently talking about the eighties.

The eighties were a different time, but I suppose all times are different from all other times when you think about it, anyway the eighties was a strange animal. Glam rock had influenced hair bands, garish bright neon colors were the new black, but so was black, metal music was born, and pop music entered its golden age. I was there; I was alive during the eighties, I was too young to fully appreciate how important Guns N Roses or Def Leppard would become, I just thought they were cool dudes, with cool music, and I had a cool T-shirt of them, and it is interesting to think I witnessed the whole gambit of their careers over my lifetime, but I am not the only one, my whole generation went through this together and it affected us; the eighties is our decade of nostalgia, whether we like it or not.

The eighties are popular again and this is no surprise, it has been thirty years past and artist now in their thirties are looking back to their childhoods and remember how much fun they had back then. Edguy’s last album “Space Police” was adverted as “more eighties than the eighties ever were” and Tobias Sammet made a serious effort to prove that claim true. Tegan and Sara’s recent album release “Love You to Death” is embracing the eighties style in a big way. It is sort of weird those two acts are the first examples I think of to prove this point, but the point still stands.

I think I should finally get to the point, another place we have seen a return and an embrace to the eighties is cinema, and since this is a music blog I should probably focus on soundtracks.

In recent years a handful of movies have stood out to me as very eighties, not just set in the eighties but embracing eighties themes and style. I am very fond of movies like “Nightcrawler,” “It Follows,” and the “Maniac” remark, all of which were very eighties and had really strong eighties inspired soundtracks. I also enjoyed the comedic “Turbo Kid” and “Kung Fury” but those movies while comparably eighties are in a whole other category of their own. Most importantly is the movie “Drive,” not only is this the best movie of all the films I just mentioned but it also has the best soundtrack and the best single song we could pull from this collection, Electric Youth & College’s “A Real Hero.”

Bronwyn Griffin and Austin
Garrick; Electric Youth.
Electric Youth is a musical duo from Toronto, where basically Bronwyn Griffin sings and Austin Garrick plays the synthesizer and drums.

College is one of many projects by David Grellier, who for as far as I know, functions similarly to Austin Garrick as far as purpose and function when it came to the collaborative creation that is “A Real Hero.”

“A Real Hero” is so convincingly eighties that I struggled to believe that is was a new song when I first heard it. Clearly very careful consideration and deliberation was invested in the selection of sounds that creates the rhythm section of this song, I would suspect a time machine was used, but time machines are not a thing still... thanks Obama.

But, what is “A Real Hero” about?

My first instinct was always to tie it to the movie “Drive,” and I always suspected the course had a direct meaning to Ryan Gosling’s character;

“And you, have proved, to be,
A real human being,
And a real hero.”

Ryan Gosling in "Drive."
Ryan Gosling effectively plays a sociopath in “Drive.” His lack of empathy comes across more stoic than anything else, but there is an uneasy intensity in the cold and cool way he handles the conflicts facing him. This manifests itself in the elevator scene where Gosling efficiently and brutally stomps a man to death in front of his love interest who is left horrified of him, with his reaction being one of distant indifference. So... it could be argued, and I believe very effectively, that Gosling’s character in “Drive” did indeed need to prove himself to be an actual human being, perhaps by becoming a hero and avenging Bryan Cranston’s death, and after all Gosling’s character is in fact “emotionally complex.”

Oh... spoilers by the way.

Mel Gibson in "The Road Warrior."
However there is an alternative source of inspiration for “Real Hero,” and that is the “The Road Warrior.” Speaking of the eighties... “The Road Warrior” is an awesome movie that tragically has been eclipsed in very nearly every way by “Mad Max Fury Road;” but this is not a movie review, though I doubt myself sometimes, this is a music review, and “A Real Hero” may be about Mad Max.

Against the grain of dystopic claims,
Not the thoughts your actions entertain.

Mel Gibson’s Mad Max, comes across as a heartless stranger, indifferent to the plights and struggles of others, but in the end he goes very far out of his way to save the day. His actions are not the same as his thoughts.

Captain Sully
Sullenberger, a real hero
But there is one more verse to consider:

A pilot on a cold, cold morn,
155 people on board.
All safe and all rescued,
From the slowly sinking ship.
Water warmer than,
His head so cool,
In that tight bind knew what to do.

Well... that is very specific, this has to be something; and it is! It is about Captain Sully Sullenberger, who successfully safety landed a plane, presumably with one hundred and fifty five passengers, after a flock of geese flew into the jet and disabled it. I think it is safe to say that Sullenberger is a real hero, a real life hero, and I doubt anyone has reason to question his qualification as a human being, a real one at that, unlike the last two fictional characters we just finished discussing.

I have to give credit to The Hollywood Reporter for informing me about some of the details here:

Evidently it is not reaching to project Mad Max onto this song; it is in part Austin Garrick’s intention.

It is an interest soup Electric Youth have stewed with “A Real Hero.” Triple heroic inspirations, with a collaboration of talents, and very heavy eighties influence. Not to repeat myself but “A Real Hero” so perfectly captures the sound of the eighties I thought for certain it was some lost classic from that decade, or maybe an Italian hit that never surfaced in North America. I always suspected Electric Youth to be Italian... I do not know why.

So the eighties are back, and depending on how you felt about it the first time around, this may or may not be a good thing. This too will pass and we will have yet another odd catalogue of great songs that seem out of time, belonging to other moments in history altogether, and that thing, history, will continue to repeat itself.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves


I really like this live version:

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