Dot Dunger

The man of steel (Gary Steel, that is) has been thinking about that Dotcom chap, and specifically, his album.

Kim-DotcomTHERE’S A NOBLE tradition amongst serious exponents of electronic music craft that’s particularly common amongst techno and house producers. These are dance music genres in which authentic craftspeople admire anonymity. They know that at its best, dance music is a level playing field: the dance floor is a place for people to shake their asses without having to worship the Godlike edifice of rock star-like celebrity. But of course, the more popular they get, the harder it is to shed a skin, and to simply be the sum total of the sounds on a disc. Some producers change their monikers with abandon, so it becomes a full-time job for fans to keep up, and exposes those fans as hopeless nerds. After all, they should really be chasing great sounds, not a brand. Other artist/DJs release 12-inch singles in limited white label editions with no name at all or, as in the case of the critically acclaimed dubstep producer Burial, keep their identity hidden. [Well, he managed that for seven years, but has recently blown his cover.]
Good_Times_Kim_DotcomOn the other hand, there’s no credibility in a dance music artist who exploits his music as part of a brand-building exercise, and that’s my first big issue with that big man, Kim Dotcom, and his Good Times album.
For any New Zealander or resident who has kept up with news stories in the past couple of years, Kim Dotcom’s presence on the local scene, for better or worse, is huge. [Excuse the pun]. Had the FBI-engineered raid on his mansion never happened, it’s my guess that Dotcom would still have become a larger-than-life figure [excuse me again] on our tiny stage. Let’s not retread old details, but clearly, the controversy over the raid and the subsequent shutdown of Dotcom’s file-sharing business, the legal complexities, the business with our prime minister and John Banks and on and on, have all kept the Dotcom name in headlines.
And that’s the problem in attempting to assess Dotcom’s album, which he has apparently pieced together in fits and starts during the troubles of the past couple of years.
kim-dotcom-620_2118143bI contemplated the possibility of hypnotism so my head would be devoid of any memory of Dotcom, and I could assess Good Times with none of the obvious baggage. But that would be a lot of trouble all in aid of what really is a lousy record.
In truth, I don’t know what I think of Dotcom and his various pursuits. On the one hand, it seems to me that his file-sharing site was only doing what many other file-sharing sites do, acting as conduits between sender and recipient in much the same way as snail mail or email. It seems to me that seemingly above-board websites like YouTube are brazenly above the law by allowing anyone to put anything online for anyone to watch or listen to, and only pulling it down when a copy-write owner complains. Compared to that, any supposed indiscretions of Dotcom’s Megaupload site, now closed, seem trifling. And it feels to me like the old guard in Hollywood have chosen a soft target to test their legal weaponry on, in the hope that he will be an example that scares off others, or perhaps sets a precedent, resulting in file-sharing sites dropping like a house of cards.
On the other hand, Dotcom’s tendency to throw money around in a fashion well documented through the 20th century by various nouveau riche comes across as garish and more than a little bit dull. It’s that mindless hedonism that’s about as subtle as a flying mallet and slimes its way through Good Times, one of the most excruciating albums to have troubled my CD player, and already a candidate for Worst NZ Album By A Rich Bastard In 2014, aka, an album that tastes like fart de foie gras.
Okay, let me be fair: there are a couple of good things about Good Times. One is the sound quality, which is decent. A lot of contemporary dance pop is compressed to buggery, but this isn’t. There’s a good amount of tightly controlled bass weight and the synth sounds, which dominate the mix, are nicely insectoid as they buzz from speaker to speaker.
art-KimDotCom-620x349Another good thing are the guests: people like Laughton Kora and Tiki Taane and Printz Board (Black Eyed Peas) who manage to ever so slightly elevate this sorry endeavour with whatever musical personality they possess. I said slightly.
And it’s not enough. Good Times is an aesthetic travesty, and at times it’s so bad that it made me shudder with a kind of cultural cringe reserved only for portly German narcissists who have the audacity to think that their business savvy extends to musical talent. Which brings me to this: just exactly what does Dotcom do on Good Times, anyway? Theoretically, he produced the album, at Neil Finn’s Roundhead studios, but did he play any hand in making the sounds found on the record itself? We may never know, or care to know. Certainly, it’s stacked with collaborators, and the only identifiable Dotcom moments are those excruciating Teutonic-tinged raps, genius lines like “Sleep all day/Party all night/Have what you want/Whenever you like” (‘Good Life’). Shades of the Roastbusters?
While that song clearly maps out Dotcom’s superficial worldview, and the whole endeavour just goes to reinforce the man’s inflated [ha!] sense of self, it’s inevitably the horrible Euro-house flavours that kill the project stone cold dead. As early as the second song, the title track, the rhythm gets stuck in a kind of goosestep that’s anathema to a country versed in the blissed out rhythms of Bob Marley and the dub skank of Fat Freddy’s Drop.
At times, it’s hard to imagine that Dotcom comes from a country famed for the pioneering work of electronic legends, Kraftwerk, whose ironic, darkly humorous and carefully layered work has endured, and influenced generations of the better techno heads. For a few euphoric seconds, the song ‘Good Times’ even sounded a bit Kraftwerkian, but soon I was laughing at him, not with him, as he intoned: “Hands in the air/Hands everywhere!” in a leering rap that conjured up the ghost of none other than that entertainingly gauche Wellington electronic band, The Body Electric (remember ‘Pulsing’?) He does it again on ‘Party Electricity’: “You and me/We are wild/We are free”, and then: “Wild, free, and sexy!” You can almost hear him sweat. And then on ‘Wunderbar’, the killer line is, you guessed it: “Ooh-la-la/You and me are/Wunderbar.”
Then there’s ‘Keeps Getting Better’ (I only wish it would), on which vocalist Ilati comes on like a naughty teen wishing she was really Miley Cyrus, not propping up some rich bloke’s vanity project; and ‘Take Me Away’, possibly a true sentiment sung by Dotcom’s wife Mona.
Sadly, the project does guests like Kora and Taane no favours, either. ‘Change Your Life’ has the former trying his soul emoting to clichéd jackhammer beats and house clichés, while on ‘Little Bit Of Me’, the latter allows his own brand to be submerged in a long drop reserved for arenas full of dumb shits waving their stumpy hands in the air.
It’s possible that some of the above lyrics are sung with tongue in cheek. After all, Kim Dotcom has shown himself in interviews to be an articulate, and one suspects, thoughtful bloke. But none of that really matters, because in its totality, Good Times is such an affront to good taste that it should probably be extradited and classified and buried in the FBI files, even if the man himself is allowed to stay in NZ.
kim-dot-com-topThe reason Good Times pisses me off isn’t that I have any kind of beef with Dotcom. It’s simply because it’s a waste of space in a crowded market, a rich man’s vanity project that proves nothing, is nothing except some noise to fill the terrifying void.
The real shame about Kim Dotcom’s album is that he could have invested the money it cost in the work of a genuine artist. But philanthropy doesn’t seem to be part of Dotcom’s mindset, just the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. Pleasure without consequences. At the very least that’s a shame; at the worst, something to be concerned about. GARY STEEL

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