It may feel like the Eighties revival has been going since 1990 with no sign of any let up yet, but beyond the serious synth-pop revivalists and po-faced rock regurgitators stand Norwegian duo Datarock. Fredrik Saroea and Ketil Mosnes take 80s references and pump them full of humour to produce songs worthy of both jumping around and falling about laughing to.
Take, for example, ‘Bulldozer’, their ode to the favoured mode of transport for any self-respecting 80’s kid, the BMX, which features the yelped chorus chant of “BMX! Is better than sex!” Showing a distinct lack of interest in the chin-stroking and humourless ego-preening some musicians indulge in, frontman Fredrik explains his approach: “As you can hear from the lyrics, I’m not the kind of guy who sits at home alone drinking red wine becoming really emotional writing from my inner soul.”
His inspiration instead comes from much worthier sources. “The song ‘Bulldozer’ is sort of inspired by a movie called BMX Bandits. Everybody saw it and everybody started riding the BMX. Kraftwerk had their ‘Tour De France’ all about the racing bike, we have our ‘Bulldozer’ that’s all about the BMX. Somebody, seriously, had to pay tribute to the BMX bike.”
Current single ‘Computer Camp Love’ betrays the duo’s love of other icons of the Eighties, such as prehistoric PC the Commodore 64, and films of the era. Are they obsessed with the age of excess though? “Not the Eighties in general but the cultural highlights of the Eighties,” explains Fredrik. “Some of the movies of the mid-Eighties such as Revenge Of The Nerds, which was a big inspiration for ‘Computer Camp Love’. That’s a direct quotation from that movie.” It also borrows from Grease, twisting the lyrics of ‘Summer Nights’ and weaving them into the tale of geeks in love.
Humour is a constant throughout (just check ‘Nightflight To Uranus’) though that’s not to say they’re a mere novelty act. Their lineage could include Goldie Lookin’ Chain and the Cuban Brothers (who they share their drummer with), with tongue-in-cheek lyrics and a spectacular stage act featuring compulsory identical tracksuits, but their music, fun and upbeat yet never throwaway, sets them apart. In fact the one serious thing about Datarock is the fact that their output is seriously good. So good in fact that they were invited to ply the crowd with their energetic electronic brew on the main stage at 2003’s Sonar festival.
…take 80s references and pump them full of humour to produce songs worthy of both jumping around and falling about laughing to.
The album ‘Datarock Datarock’ is due for an imminent re-release and is awash with further dips into the memory banks. ‘Ugly Primadonna’ is described as “a very strange song about the relationship between Elliot and E.T. in the movie” while ‘Maybelline’ reprises the old cosmetics ad slogan “maybe she’s born with it”, laying it over sparse beats and fuzzy guitar as Fredrik croons the title. “A lot of bands call their debut albums their own names, which is kind of boring,” he explains, “so we had to do it twice. We were considering calling it ‘Datarock: The Musical’ but then thought ‘Aah, what the hell, let’s call it ‘Datarock Datarock’.’’
“We’re probably going to do a musical later anyway,” deadpans Ketil. You get the feeling that on this occasion, they may just be serious.