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Layton
Grand Design
Leftwing LLC and BMG Distribution
www.layton.cc


Most retrospection of the '80s tends to focus on the prevalence of the neo-capitalist ideology of happiness through materialist-consumption-to-excess. The retrospection inevitably leads to a condemnation of our own self-absorptions. We all collectively shake our heads and slap ourselves on the wrists. Bad us. Bad. Particularly, we have these unpleasant reminders of consumption to excess: a generation of the spectacularly obese, social misfits raised by television and video games because dad AND mom had to work 60+ hours a week to afford the better house, better car, better stereo, etc. Left to their own devices, the latch key kids discovered the same drugs that the parents did, discovered the hard societal realities created by not knowing anything about sex but having ample, unsupervised opportunity to figure it out with the girl next door…

But when Grand Design pops into the changer, (remember, it's really a cassette) you can forget that the '90s and '00s ever existed; it's still 1984, and cocaine isn't a problem, it's a problem solver. The kids are watching the Disney channel and not soft-core porn on Skin-emax. And you're out for a night on the town in a stretch limo loaded with every substance needed for a little chemical imbalancing act, hopping from club to club with the sole purpose of satisfying those gathering urges. We (at Hybrid) are starting to see a swell of the New New Wave of synth-pop, and Layton's Grand Design is near the crest. The instrumentation, coded though it is, is as lush as the upholstery of that stretch limo, and the vocals as dreamy as the hazy memories imparted by those trivial, not-yet-addictive indulgences. Layton takes advantage of modern equipment and methods to show us how the future of music was supposed to be, and nothing seems out of place in this retro-visitation.

Paul Layton, in some of the interviews I've read, appears to have some of the hallmarks of perfectionism. Perfectionism is best when it manifests itself as a careful and measured attention to detail, and worst when it's an infinite recursion of obsessive-compulsive behavior. (Ever spend the entire day you were supposed to clean the house focused on that one kitchen drawer filled with miscellaneous crap?) Fortunately, Layton either is of the careful, measured variety, or trusts someone else enough to keep him from working his material to death. This could have been over-produced, too period, or so over-wrought as to be self-parodical, and it could have been so, so easily. Someone knew when it was time to stop painting. I won't say it's "perfect," because in light of what I've just written, that word's meaning just isn't as austere as it used to be. Instead, I'll just say that the album, at just the right time, stops attempting to achieve that ideal of infinite recursion.

-JD

Track Listing:

1. <c-june>
2. <hope's all there is>
3. <roundagon>
4. <milky way>
5. <venus>
6. <morning glory>
7. <roundagon/lara mix>
8. <daze of my lives>
9. <confessions of a lush>
10. <rainbows & u>
11. <hope's all there is> (static revenger mix)

Special bonus material: roundagon video


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Mike Doughty



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