Night Dolls With Hairspray Night Dolls With Hairspray


James Ferraro James FerraroNight Dolls With Hairspray

7.9 / 10


Despite being the central figure of so-called hypnagogic pop, the one who best represents the ideas that David Keenan set out in his already-famous article in The Wire to defend what is still a new repetition of the American underground, James Ferraro has remained in the background. One need only see the repercussions that Sun Araw, Rangers and especially Oneohtrix Point Never have had, while Ferraro continues to be one of those names that is quoted more often than he’s actually listened to. For example, the fact that at the time of writing of this review not one of his releases has been reviewed by Pitchfork is significant – and we’re talking about someone whose Discogs page is impressive for the number of references it includes. In part, this is understandable, and is something that is due to his eminently underground nature, putting out his own albums one after the other, on formats like CD-R and cassette, which normally fly well below the media radar (both professional and amateur), but it is especially so because his music is difficult to accommodate alongside the idea people usually have of an album as something solid and whole, a finished work with which to judge the value of the author. Ferraro, on the other hand, releases music that belongs to a continuum or a work in progress, music that also surpasses the song format that is totally inadequate for it. This perhaps makes it difficult to speak about one of his albums apart from the others, as the peculiarities of each one are only brushstrokes, whose importance can only be appreciated by taking a few steps back and contemplating the whole. But of course the whole, in Ferraro’s case, is more than fifty references, which makes things more difficult.

With all of this in mind, “Night Dolls with Hairspray” –released, by the way, by Olde English Spelling Bee (perhaps the most interesting label right now)– seems like an excellent opportunity for the curious who still hadn’t dared to try out his music, because the American’s most recent reference contains the music Ferraro has made that comes the closest to pop songs. They are fragmentary songs, it’s true, to the point where at times it seems as if we were listening to bits of several songs, as if Ferraro had written many more songs than the ones that appear on the list, to later go from one to the other as if he were trying to find a radio station or just flipping the dial. This is the case, for example, with one of the most outstanding cuts on this album, the memorable “Leather High School”, pure adolescent energy, in which the choruses appear suddenly, like interferences. This collage effect, also present on the cover, is fundamental for understanding its aesthetic and is a key point in hypnagogic pop. It has to do with the relationship between these people and 80’s mass culture, which they feel attracted to, but which they manipulate in all sorts of ways that keep this type of music from becoming an exercise in nostalgia. In Ferraro’s case, these manipulations have to do with brusque changes, noises from different sources that punctuate the transitions between songs, and also the degradation of sound, creating textures that are a sound pulp at times. This doesn’t keep us from enjoying, for example, a collection of infectious guitar riffs that sound like garage rock, glam, 80’s hair metal—sometimes all at the same time. At times it even comes close to potentially successful singles like “Runaway”, which has bells in the chorus.

The intention behind all of this is to make a comment on what it is to be an adolescent in general, and particularly in the United States in the 80’s, in that supposed paradise of suburban neighbourhoods, in which middle-class families trusted in what was at that time an unstoppable consumer expansion. The triumphant quality of 80’s mainstream is replaced here with the adolescent angst of one who knows that he doesn’t fit in, thus offering another acid look at the 80’s. More energetic than ever, bordering on Ariel Pink territory, James Ferraro wanted to let us have a glimpse of his peculiar world without as many obstacles as on other occasions. Some will say that he is doing this to reach a larger audience, although anyone who listens to this album will realise that it is very unlikely to become hype. And so, he continues to be one of the great incorruptible figures of contemporary popular music.

Iván Conte

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James Ferraro - Runaway{youtube width="100%" height="25"}r3W3ScsaHC8{/youtube}

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