James Bond is back, and not just in movies. Albums of Bond music, both original recordings and tributes, have recently parachuted into stores. Bond’s comeback is hardly coincidental. In the ’60s, the tuxedoed confidence, brassy scores, and highest-tech gadgetry of the Bond films was a proud symbol of England’s cultural dominance. Now that London is swinging again — in terms of fashion, pop, and filmmaking — it’s no surprise that its most virile symbol of world conquest is alive again.
It’s also no accident that the end-of-the-Millennium Bond would have electronica as his accompaniment. Techno’s warped-speed energy embodies the character’s sleekness, just as the genre’s obsession with knob-twiddling matches a secret agent’s gizmo fetish. When it comes to merging Bond and techno — England Olde and New — nobody does it better than the Propellerheads on their first full album, Decksandrumsandrockandroll.
Besides being the first notable album to emerge from the flop-plagued DreamWorks Records, ”Decksandrums” isn’t push-button techno. Alex Gifford and Will White are members of the latest electronica in-crowd, big beat. Though steeped in the burping beats of techno and hip-hop, big beat also slathers on distinctly rock elements like guitar riffs and snare-demolishing drumming. It’s the sound of a generation that’s tired of chilling out to ambient watercolors and wants to re-tap into its inner adolescent.
”Decksandrums” is one very big beat. Gifford and White lock into electro-funk grooves but litter them with lounge organs, electric guitars, scratching, and kitschy vocal snippets. A sample from a Richard Nixon speech becomes a hook in ”Take California,” while a female groupie’s space-cadet insights, supposedly lifted from an old documentary, give a stoner seductiveness to the delicious ”Velvet Pants.” ”History Repeating” machine-guns the 007 connection home, not just with its swinging-computer beat but with its guest vocalist: ”Goldfinger” diva Shirley Bassey. For a couple of guys who took for their name the derogatory slang for computer geeks, the Propellerheads don’t need to get out more. They’ve created an entertaining world all their own.