There is nothing more passé than getting pissy about your favorite songs turning up in TV commercials. Once "The Only Living Boy in New York" became the sales jingle for the Honda Accord, all bets were clearly off. So why, then, does the use of M83's "Outro" in a recent Red Bull ad send fans of the French electro-pop act scurrying for the remote control? Is it hipster spite? An aversion to snowboarding footage? Nope. It's actually more of a testament to the intense personal experiences listeners seem to get out of Anthony Gonzalez's epic anthems. As he has said himself, M83 makes soundtracks for "imaginary movies," and nobody wants those images replaced by highlights from The X Games.
The aforementioned song, "Outro," is — as you might expect — the closing track on the latest M83 release, 2011's ambitious and highly successful double LP, Hurry up, We're Dreaming. In some respects, it's not a particularly representative song, as its ridiculously grandiose slow burn doesn't hint at the playful '80s dancehall sound that's also been an M83 hallmark for about a decade now (Gonzalez has toured with both Depeche Mode and The Killers, to give you an idea of where his fan base can be found). What "Outro" does do, however, is showcase the flair for the ultra-dramatic that really separates M83 from most of the other retro-minded synth-pop acts out there. At the peak of its crescendo, this is neither dance music nor ambient background fare. It's drop-what-you're-doing-and-pay-attention music. If not from an imaginary film, it could just as easily be the score to William Wallace's execution or Frodo's march into Mordor.
Amongst all the swirling, regal synths, these are the only lyrics Gonzalez delivers to conclude the last cut of his magnum opus: "I am the king of my own land / Facing tempests of dust, I'll fight until the end / Creatures of dreams raise up and dance with me / Now and forever, I'm your king!"
OK, a little melodramatic. Maybe even a little Dungeons and Dragons. But if you listen to "Outro," you may find yourself similarly inspired to raise your plastic sword and defend your homeland against the forces of darkness. Just the same, if you try the album's up-tempo lead single, "Midnight City," you'll start thinking New Order and New Coke are the freshest shit on the planet again.
How does Gonzalez strike these nostalgic chords? Well, along with being a bit of a European romantic cliché, he appears to be — above all else — a kid at heart. Even with five albums already to his credit (he formed M83 back in 2001 with former bandmate Nicolas Fromageau), Gonzalez relocated to LA last year with a fresh determination to accomplish one of his childhood goals: making a double album in the vein of Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
To that end, he succeeds remarkably, as Hurry up, We're Dreaming shares a lot of that classic Billy Corgan blend of bombast, wistfulness and great pop sensibilities, not to mention a fixation on lost youth.
"I'm really obsessed with my teenage years," Gonzalez confessed in a (sigh) Urban Outfitters interview. "This [album] is sort of a tribute to my childhood — to my memories of being a kid. When I first moved to LA, I was feeling very lonely and a bit lost, and I started to remember when I was a kid, and it kept me active. It was sort of this mix of nostalgia and melancholy, but it was a happy feeling that kept me going."
Rather than simply amounting to another '80s homage like 2008's Saturdays = Youth, however, Hurry Up has established M83 as an act right at home and formidable in its own time, as a career-best No. 15 peak on the U.S. charts seems to confirm.
For established fans, the only concern going forward is that M83's music — long a conduit to their own nostalgic daydreams — may increasingly create less desirable associations, like Gossip Girl episodes or, yes, energy drink commercials.
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