HealeyIsland
On Ponzi Bridge
White Label Music

Frances Fukuyama’s book The End Of History, published in 1992, went directly against Jacques Derrida’s Spectres of Marx, predicting the global triumph of Capitalism and of the Spectacle. Greg Healey’s music, as HealeyIsland, is the soundtrack of sprawling shopping complexes and virtual dating sites.

This is the world predicted by Walter Benjamin, in his unfinished Passagenwerken (The Arcades Project): the birth of the pop culture, the beginning of the shopping mall, of commerce, of virtuality. It’s the simulacrum’s smug satisfaction that it is real, that it has it all under control, under wraps. It’s a dustbin museum, full of never-ending card catalogs, everything dated and numbered, and we are told to go pilfer, go explore. But the museum is not real life; Healey remembers the outside, the sunshine and dirty gutters. Healey both pays reverence to and makes a mockery of high-definition, high-gloss early-’90s CGI utopianism in On Ponzi Bridge. Healey loves and hates the spectacle, and fights back with the keenest of British weapons: sarcasm.

 

Healey seems cut from a whole of gray cotton post-punk cloth. On Ponzi Bridge, there seems to be a summoning of John Lydon (after he was rotten), Howard Devoto, and even Eno — but the strongest similarity is to Devo, with their biting, straight-faced cutting wit. There’s a keen sinister edge to HealeyIsland. It’s like watching a mannequin breakdancing; its sort of unsettling. Healey’s music has that uncanny rigidity, that plasticine funk, that makes you feel like you’re on hold in Lavender Town. He seems part of the generation that have been raised up on Ghost Box records, where hauntological tones have become part of the landscape. They have learned to worship the electric harpsichord and buzzing battery-operated Casio; Hammer Films soundtracks and Dr. Who episodes have been poured over as much as early-’90s rap tapes, and we get this funky, new wave rave post-punk. The thing of it is, is that anyone reared on Ghost Box or Hammer know the significance of melody. Like miniature minarets hooking in your ears like fishhook chainmail, Healey’s music gets lodged immediately.

On Ponzi Bridge is an enjoyable listen, and increasingly so. It’s a solid collection of songs that works both as a whole, and as individual components. The first couple of tracks are more vocal-oriented, sounding like Bryan Ferry collaborating with James Ferraro, before segueing into the more instrumental latter half, that recalls some of Fripp’s interludes on Another Green World. It also sounds like menu music for a video game, like you fell asleep with your NES console on pause — super sharp and high-defintion, but still with a funkiness, a hip-hop groove. Like Duke Ellington said, “That’s cool. But does it swing?”

But,all the double entendres and smirking menace aside, the music that Healey makes is astounding: so many subtle layers, different keyboard sounds, drum pattern variations. He’s a legit electronic producer, and is using many of the deft tricks available to the discerning beatsmith to create a new New Romanticism, a bedroom synth-pop library music floor banger. On Ponzi Bridge is the amphetamine-fueled, cynical take on Boards Of Canada’s wistful reminiscence; it’s sharp, rather than blurry, competitive while still being reverential. It’s the sound of a generation of kids determined to make the illest beats imaginable on a hacked PlayStation council. Precocious and hungry, they defy the people who say that everything has been said and that we are doomed to endlessly vomit and regurgitate our parent’s generation. If the past was so great, why isn’t the present perfect?

Healey is refining the past, melting it down to purest ore, taking what he wants, and laughing at the rest. He is using every trick at his disposal, including great songwriting, musicianship and production. On Ponzi Bridge is a model Edwardian village to wander around in, to transform your days and nights into smooth gleaming pleasure cruises, on your way to the launchpad.

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