Who knew music this shit-hot could come from a mountainous Norwegian town known as the "City of Rain"? Following in the footsteps of fellow townsfolk Röyksopp, Kings of Convenience and Sondre Lerche, Fredrik Saroea (vocals, guitar and keyboard) and Ketil Mosnes (backing vocals, bass and keyboard) formed Datarock in 2000 while students in Bergen, Norway (where "there's still lots of black metal"). Or, as Saroea once recounted in an online interview, "We fell in love. He became pregnant and gave birth to a small Casio watch. As our love grew, the Casio watch grew to become a Casio keyboard. And that's how we became Datarock."
They gigged around for a couple of years, released a few EPs through various local record companies, and finished their full-length debut in 2005 on their own label, Young Aspiring Professionals. After signing with Canada's Nettwerk Music Group this summer, Saroea and Mosnes finally saw the stateside release of Datarock Datarock, and it's an album of seriously silly and dweebishly sexy contradictions that'll have you shouting from Bergen's seven mountaintops, "I have heard the future, and it's all about the past!"
Yes, Datarock are riding the dance-rock wave (a win-win situation, if you ask us) that has taken hold of the world by the disco balls and won't . . . let . . . go. And yes, they recycle the obvious '80s-new-wave and '70s-art-school influences (what, you never liked Devo or Talking Heads?). But they're less blatant plagiarists than an exercise in expected surprises because whatever nostalgic elements Saroea and Mosnes have thrown into the heap, they've come out sounding showroom-fresh, funky and just plain fun.
"We'll reinvent everything good and decent in the past 30 years of pop culture," says Saroea, just before the band embarks on a brief North American tour, opening for the Kaiser Chiefs. "And in the haze of our cross-referencing intertextuality, we'll make everyone relive the fun of the dance floor."
Okay, let's start with the Datarock uniform of Vans and red tracksuits, yours for only $199 via their MySpace. Sure, tracksuits are as old as the Beastie Boys, but it's the tufts of chest hair peaking out from under all that nylon and the Porsche glasses that add an element of cool danger, perfect if they were posing for an '80s Drakkar Noir cologne ad. And while Mosnes is pasty-faced, Saroea is darker, with the profile of a Chippendales dancer and the big, one-sided hair of vintage Prince.
Then there's Datarock Datarock's knack for making you simultaneously laugh with and at the pair. "Bulldozer" starts with Arcade Fire-ish guitar riffs and lyrics about BMX being better than sex. (Not quite, if you live in a city with such high precipitation). The duo give the geekoid masses an entire anthem with "Computer Camp Love." Think Kraftwerk doing Grease's "Summer Nights" as sung by Devo, while conjuring images of floppy-disk sniffing and over-the-keyboard fondling. "We actually met [Devo's] Gerald Casale in Norway," remembers Saroea. "And in LA, Mark Mothersbaugh was kind enough to give us the ground tour of his studio, Mutato Muzika. Bob 2 met us at the door, and believe it or not, he actually referred to himself as Bob 2."
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Saroea can sing whatever nerdy nonsense he wants because he makes plenty of sexy time, especially with the bad-ass bass line of the current single "Fa-Fa-Fa." What did left-footed indie hipsters ever do to deserve a song dripping with so much funk, soul and sex that it could knock Bootsy Collins off his platforms? "I need a hit/I need a hit of nutrition/If you want to whip me into shape/I need a plan or mission," Saroea commands, as if penning a health-club jingle. These aren't fighting words; they're what you hear during Jazzercise. And on "Sex Me Up," he goes a step further by proclaiming, "On my hands and knees/On your command, I'll freeze." Now, we don't wanna know what all the giving and receiving is about on "Night Flight to Uranus"—loads of Bow Wow Wow tribal drumming, available only on the CD's import version—but it got us hot under our hoodies just the same.
The album culminates with the postcoital, snuggly "The Most Beautiful Girl," which has Saroea swapping spit with Norwegian pop star Annie. This is a duet so cheesy it's as if the two are lying between slices of bread over a hot pan. Actually, it's not a love song so much as a verbal molestation that'll make you feel soiled and impure.
Datarock's shows are known to have as many as 30 people onstage. So who knows? Saroea might call upon you to make muskrat love.
DATAROCK PERFORM WITH FOREIGN BORN AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600; WWW.DETROITBAR.COM. THURS., OCT. 4, 9 P.M. $10.