Look, I’m not going to lie, it’s really difficult not to post on Kanye West today. His record arrived at our house yesterday and D and I have already spun, ripped and talked about it like the cricket never started this morning and South Korea wasn’t getting the veritable shit kicked out of them by their brothers from the North. But given that I’m sure we’ll each post on the Dark Twisted Fantasy rapper over the weekend (A Kanye a day? That’s a big change from my ban on him two years ago) and that you’re probably sick of reading super long reviews of the album, I thought I’d focus on another prodigiously talented, darkly fantasising and often misunderstood pop genius who I talked to on the phone yesterday. His name is Dev Hynes and you might know him bettr as Lightspeed Champion. As I have mentioned here before, just like Mr West, Hynes does not do things in moderation. The American-British hybrid who counts Florence Welch among close friends – “I surprised her the other day when she was on SNL, I just knocked on her dressing room door and she absolutely flipped out she was so excited. I mean, people forget that I live in Brooklyn and lots of my friends are writers on TV shows!” – is so ludicrously good at what he does that I feel a twin sense of admiration and stinging jealousy every time I listen to him. In addition to releasing two incredibly good albums, including this year’s Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You, Dev spends his spare time writing songs for other people which end up becoming huge hits. He’s done this with Basement Jaxx, Chemical Brothers, Florence and more recently, Beyonce’s little sister Solange. Did I mention the guy is 24 years old? Cool, so I’ll be writing myself off now…
Dev is as lovely to talk to as he is bizarre on record. He’s a compulsive blogger and some of his stuff is the most hilarious you will ever read by an artist on a major label. In fact, had we not been interrupted by a call centre operator from the country Snoop Dogg is currently trying to buy, I would have asked him how Domino Records let him get away with posts like this one. His first album was all about ripping out his eyes, drowning himself and a whole host of other amazing things that were to do with, among other things, a woman who had broken his heart. The second time around he’s no less acerbic, and if anything the arrangements have just gotten better. Dev, who not only scores these things by himself but also plays both violin and cello, in addition to drums, piano and guitar, has so many ideas busting out of his spectacled, fur-hatted wearing cranium that I don’t blame him for allegedly having trouble falling asleep at night.
‘Marlene’ is the kind of orchestrated wonder that really makes me want to go back to the Conservatorium and study classical music. When I was fourteen and being dragged along to the Sydney Symphony by my culturally-enlightened grandmother, I never understood what the deal was with strings and why everyone was so hung up on them. With the benefit of hindsight and the fact that every rapper worth his salt (including, of course, Kanye) is piling them onto their tracks, it is starting to make more sense. Then there’s the imagery, ‘stick a spoon into your heart’, the ironic hipster statements ‘Stop Being Cool’ and that chorus which slowly builds into a cacophony of sound before dropping back into the funkiest lick this side of the ’70s. The lesson, of course, is don’t trust German women, no matter how beautiful. Unless Marlene is American, in which case that whole premise fails. Dev recently cut an EP with the legendary Van Dyke Parks, because, you know, why not, and when he finishes up with Solange he’ll be releasing another album under another moniker. He also reviews the worst movies on IMDB in his spare time and writes hip hop, too.
Hyperactivity has never sounded quite so appealing as Lightspeed Champion. Leave the Ritalin on the counter and get amongst it.
Lightspeed Champion – ‘Marlene’
Go faster than the Speed of Light here.