The Juan MacLean
The Future Will Come
By Calum Marsh & David Abravanel | 1 May 2009
As a label with a stubborn dedication to vinyl and 12” singles, DFA has always had a difficult time legitimizing its full-length releases. Many have leveled the criticism that its artists work better in single format—which, to be fair, is symptomatic of the genre—and the label’s steady stream of successful 12“s does little to dissuade the skeptics. From LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge”/“Beat Connection” to Hercules & Love Affair’s 2008 smash “Blind” (the Frankie Knuckles remix of which, by the way, is heaven), DFA has been home to some of the most successful singles of the decade. But one simply needs to glance at their back catalogue to see the discrepancy between 12” singles and their accompanying LPs: the Rapture’s Echoes (2003) proved less successful than the “House Of Jealous Lovers” lead; Hot Chip’s records never matched the heights of their singles; and the bands which round out their roster, from Shit Robot to Black Leotard Front to Prinzhorn Dance School, have yet to follow hyped singles with full length albums.
Juan Maclean have faced this kind of criticism before. Their debut, Less Than Human (2005), was met with disappointment by fans of the infectious “Give Me Every Little Thing” and “Less Than Human.” And now we get The Future Will Come, the first full-length release by the Juan Maclean in four years. This time around the hype’s been built by the success of last year’s “Happy House,” a twelve-minute banger reminiscent of the Human League and (surprise!) LCD Soundsystem. “Happy House” didn’t explode as it probably should have because DFA fans were busy gushing over the good-but-by-no-means-revelatory Hercules & Love Affair, but it has since gained popularity and acclaim. Now that the air’s cleared and enough time has passed for due consideration, “Happy House” stands tall as one of the best—if not the best—songs in the DFA catalogue. Its simple vocal hook—“You are so / Excellent”—and piercing piano line ham up the best house conventions with delightful results. That piano might strike house-newbies as classically Reichian, but experts know better: check out Marshall Jefferson’s “Move My Body,” or Rhythim is Rhythim’s “Strings of Life,” or Neal Howard’s sublime and bleepy “Indulge.” The repetition of a piano-line is essentially what Frankie Knuckles built the first house records from; it’s an old trick, but a great one nonetheless.
Predictably, those anticipating The Future Will Come‘s additional nine tracks to match the quality of “Happy House” are going to be (once again) disappointed. The album’s structured on a foundation of three incredible singles—“The Simple Life” and “Tonight” being the other two—and seven briefer tracks wedged between them. Like the first LCD album, there’s an inescapable feeling that this release has been padded out to album length more out of obligation than creative necessity. When tracks dip below the five-minute mark in length (as is the case with most of the non-singles), we end up with the indie-dance equivalent of the hip-hop freestyle skit track; it’s interesting as a curiosity, but you aren’t going to revisit it much. “The Future Will Come” starts off promisingly with laser-ridden percussion, but, aside from some more synth layers, it never picks up to the climax it’s begging for. It’s as though they purposefully held back to let us know that this was not a single.
These tracks aren’t a total bust, though: “One Day” is a sweaty, tense conversation between two lovers with a robotic urgency that recalls Animotion’s over-the-top “Obsession.” Once again, however, limited track length holds things back. The close of “One Day” finally spills forth with (shit, let’s call it what it is) an ejaculation of synth strings and echoes, which could have benefited greatly from a few more minutes of swelling and riffing. The funny thing is, most of these non-single tracks have just as dynamite hooks as the singles (thought admittedly, nothing can rival the unmitigated bliss of “Happy House”), it just plain appears as if things got cut short in an attempt to be—what? Concise? I’d like to hope that there are extended versions of these tracks lying around somewhere and they’ll slowly see the life of day on, say, DFA 12” releases. In the meantime, The Future Will Come is still a mostly solid as just about any full-length release on DFA, and if some of the best ideas die too soon or don’t go far enough, at least they appear at all.