Back to the Future
In interviews leading up to the release of The Future Will Come, John MacLean claimed that he listened to a lot of The Human League for preparation. He wasn’t kidding: On his follow-up to 2005’s sublime Less Than Human, he and the rest of The Juan MacLean move forward by looking back, particularly to that bandâ€šÃ„Ã´s seminal Dare! and the more Heaven-ly latter-day work of Sparks. What could have reeked of redundancy results in another home run from the increasingly unstoppable DFA Records, a release that finds a winning middle ground between the cynical wit of LCD Soundsystem and the nostalgic passion of Cut Copy.A good deal of Future‘s success rests on the capable shoulders of LCD touring member Nancy Whang, now transferred to The Juan MacLean’s ever-growing lineup full-time. As the rest of the band churn out plaintive disco with the fluidity of Lindstrom behind her, she plays a perfect Susanne Sulley to MacLeanâ€šÃ„Ã´s Philip Oakey.
Their antagonistic chemistry sparks immediately on epic opener “The Simple Life.” A hypnotic, mutating synth line uncoils for a good four minutes before the first vocals even kick in. When they do, the back-and-forth lyrics promptly remind the listener that the answer to “Donâ€šÃ„Ã´t You Want Me?” has always been a resounding no. MacLean and Whang respectively play the suitor and cocktail waitress, each older, wiser, and filled with venomous resentment. That venom bleeds into the self-explanatory “Accusations” and slithering club jam “No Time,” which takes the cake for most petulant put-down on the album: “When Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m deep inside of you, I feel like thereâ€šÃ„Ã´s not much to do.”
It’s not all kiss-offs and piss-offs, though. First single “One Day” mourns the missed opportunity of companionship as Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” once did (“One day, baby / You’ll realize that Iâ€šÃ„Ã´m the one”), while the dubby 10-minute opus “Tonight” looks forward to futures unknown with a sense of sober anticipation. Then we come to the celebratory “Happy House,” which closes everything with more than twelve minutes of exactly that. Drastically different in tone and sound than anything else on the album, it’s a welcome respite from the drama preceding it, anchored by Whang’s thanks for “being so damned excellent.”
That same gratitude should be extended back to The Juan MacLean in kind. They’ve crafted the best dance record of the year so far, and one can only hope that their future will continue coming in spades.