John MacLean is no stranger to irony. The sort of future-perfect disco he does so well has the best relationship with it of all the misshapen late-decade trends. Late in the year The Juan MacLean, basically John MacLean once removed, got hit with way too much reality when drummer Jerry Fuchs fell down an elevator shaft and died. Snark about how to kill a hipster made the usual rounds and it really was like instant apocrypha. Apropos of nothing, earnestness kills.
As titles go “The Future Will Come” was already way more ominous than it might have been and there’s no shortage of grim on MacLean’s second full-length. The nine-minute odyssey of “Tonight” deteriorates from robotic bass to spanging saloon-like piano that sounds about ready to rip open and shower you with mice. Co-vocalist Nancy Whang carries most of it but at the end it’s just MacLean and he’s all “I can feel tonight” over and over. You get the general impression he just killed her. It’s kind of great.
“The Station” booby-traps the old story of trainhouse love with fuzzed-out synths and a frankly funky edge while lyrically it’s mostly stuff like “a future life with you would be a life of denial” and “you weigh me down with the assurance that you’ll keep me in tow.” Ew. MacLean and Whang end up shouting at each other “I called you from the station!/ you called me from the station!” so I guess that’s the end of that.
“Human Disaster,” basically the only track that’s not full-on dance, sounds like Stephen Merritt ordering take-out while a yellowed Steinway pleasures itself. MacLean’s really got the slurry misanthropic thing down (“what a disaster! A human disaster! What a disaster!“).
Oh, but fuck all that. “Accusations” may compress right into the other bitterness (“accusations make a lover’s touch turn cold”) but it’ll make you snake your hips like your own personal junk sale. Those snazzy keys! That honky bass! I first heard it in a mixtape by French cool kids Jupiter and decided on the spot it was the track of the year. It still almost is. “Happy House” is a DFA manifesto: 12-minute-long elation under a groove. “One Day” enlists jealous-heart strings for a hook that’s barely above singsong; then the houselike piano chords descend, the drums dropkick and it’s extremely good business as usual. There’s a phenomenal sort of fuzzy dub-techno edit of this one by Lazaro Casanova that’s highly recommended; it ices everything in a sinister light that’s nothing short of ghostly. R.I.P. Jerry Fuchs.