It’s been a good year for funky robots. There was Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and Janelle Monae blowing out all our spark plugs with The Electric Lady. That’s tough company to follow, but if anyone had a shot it was Deltron 3030. The hip-hop collaboration of rapper Del the Funky Homosapien and producer Dan the Automator had become increasingly shrouded in mythos since the release of its first — and, until now, only — album in the year 2000.
In Event II, Deltron 3030 very consciously tries to recapture the qualities that made its debut such a success. That’s obvious seconds into the first track, which builds up from a Star Trek-esque narration (delivered hilariously by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt) into an updated version of the same lyrics and instrumental that opened the first album.
From that point forward we’re launched into the kind of bombastic concept album Queen would have made if they wrote hip-hop. It’s the year 3040 and music production is illegal, so tuneful robots hijack starships to the edges of the galaxy where they rap about feelings of alienation and turbo-lasers. The dystopian message from the first album is still there, although it’s been updated with references to financial collapses and the disappearance of the middle class. The songs hit the same notes of sci-fi geekery and social commentary as before, but the techno-satire that felt so revolutionary back then (a year after the release of The Matrix) has lost some of its impact: now the jokes about space rednecks kicking homeless androids seem derivative of Futurama.
The production is still smart and smooth, if a little too reliant on spacey synths and scratchy vinyl. But for music about the future, Event II sounds like it’s stuck at the turn of the millennium. It’s a fun listen, but if Deltron 3030 has more than one trick up their sleeves then we haven’t seen it yet.
Best track: “What is This Loneliness.” The stripped-down production, ballad (courtesy of Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn), and Del’s more abstract rapping (“When Mother Nature got out of line with Father Time / She was visited now we gotta live with it”) evoke more emotion than the funnier parts of the album.