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Synth Album Review: "Technicolor Dreamboat" by Faustbot

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Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.

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Initial Impressions

Faustbot’s Technicolor Dreamboat is a direct, raw sonic slap to the face. His music has the essence of punk rock at its root as it is fierce, uncompromising and not afraid to dig right into controversial topics. It is an album that rails at the social injustices, economic inequality and political corruption of the world.

There’s no ambiguity here, you know precisely what Faustbot believes and how he feels. There’s an awareness to the rage channeled into the words he’s written. I am moved by the sadness that is also reflected in his lyrics. I also find Faustbot’s candour and honesty refreshing. He’s not scared of showing the world his own struggles and scars. It adds even more depth to the strength of his convictions and makes it clear that he’s speaking directly from his heart.

The music slices, howls and smashes aside any opposition. The drums charge, the guitars snarl with gritty sound and the synths are often distorted and twisted. Faustbot renders his voice hollow and robotic which actually enhances the power of his lyrics, giving them a bleak quality.

Despite the hard edges, Technicolor Dreamboat is also introspective and literate. Faustbot is well-read, politically savvy and possessed of a passionate desire to resist and challenge inequality and oppression when he sees it. There’s not enough music out there that, like this album, has a clear, strong message of resistance and a sense of social engagement.

My Favourite Songs Analyzed

“Introduction” kicks off with rapidly attacking drums, a climbing aural attack and gritty guitars. The drumbeats are battering as Faustbot’s hollow vocals echo in. There’s an empty robotic quality to them that I feel suits the music. The drums won’t let up, battering and keeping up with the rapid-fire speed of the lyrics

Faustbot lays out what we can expect of him on the album. He opens by stating, “Here we both are at the border of a musical mess. And now I think the time has come to cross into something brand new.” He introduces his “friends” like his drum machine fed with MIDI triggers, his bassline “synthesized from twin oscillators” and the “sharp rhythms and surf rock leads” are the guitars he plays.

He points out that “this here is a one man show” so he writes and performs everything. He adds with a wry twist that “I mix and master my own work so sorry for the hearing loss.” He goes on to talk about how he writes songs about politics, aliens and apocalypse adding, “So strap in, esteemed audience, it's going to get weird.”

There’s a “disclaimer” in which he adds that “if you think any of that is crap, well then, you’re free to leave” because the story lies in “these topics right here.” Again there’s self-deprecation as he points out, “If brevity's the soul of wit, then I'm a fucking dipshit.”

Faustbot continues, “See, the words don't fit so rip up what won't fit upon the page.” He concedes that if “rapid fire lyrics are the way into your heart, I’ll spit them fast into your face” and concludes that “you’re in the right place.”

Thundering drums, a deep guttural bass throb and smashing cymbals open “Boiled Down.” The angular guitar drive lacerates the ears and chanted, distorted vocals move over the rhythmic surge of the guitars. The ferocious drums keep battering while Faustbot’s twine through, clearly delivering their message while the drum onslaught goes on. I enjoy the tidal force of the simple, strong guitar line.

A raging scream at the wasteful nature of modern society tears forth from this song. Faustbot opens by saying that he came to see “the sights, see the heights of human experience” but now finds himself “unconvinced that this broken world can uncurl from its tightened existence.”

He points out that humans appear to have a death wish with “resources wasted on the rich” who get away with it. He continues, “They should lay bleeding in a ditch but you don't care, not even a little bit.”

In the chorus, Faustbot makes it simple for us as he says, “Boiled down, it’s coming down” and adds that “stormy weather’s coming down, gonna drown our kids.” The stars are falling and as they fall, they’re “blowing us to bits.”

Sheer wastefulness is his next target as he lashes out “all the food we waste” and “although it tastes fine, (we) soak it with kerosene.” He directs our gaze to “all the starving folks left in the cold, shivering terribly” for whom we could “ring the dinner bell constantly” with the amount of excess food we produce and waste.

Faustbot won’t let the listeners look away as he adds, “What isn't bought is discarded, so the hungry get no reprieve from Hell.”

“See Ya In Hell, Chief” starts off with a howling, jagged synth carrying a minor key melody while the drums spiral and leap. The howling skirl of the lead synth and the grit and edge of the vocals add urgency to the message of the song. I am drawn to the edge of tension in the high synth that twists and trumpets. The distorting, gnarled synth cries out, screaming over the hollow sounding vocals.

The ultra-wealthy get their turn under Faustbot’s withering fire. He points out that nothing’s getting any better and “at this rate, we can assume never” but the hyper-rich don’t care because they can escape “to another continent or rotten capitalist state.” He adds that they can liquefy their assets and “leave the proles behind.”

However, he adds that some people have other plans for them. They will “take your castle” and storm the gates. There’s ferocity in his words as he continues, “We will find you inside and grab a stake. We'll hammer it into your shriveled heart, atrophied and empty.”

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He adds that “we will see your plans (start) to unravel, what was built with calloused hands.” He goes on to say that every dollar that’s used to bribe a politician is “stained with the blood of those who made it for you.”

The fact that “power is the use of leverage” means that if ordinary people don’t have cash to use as a means of leverage, “if we want some power then we need to ditch the carrot and pull out the stick.”

Drums stutter and shiver as the thick guitar strings carry a surging note to begin “The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush by the Coward Corporate Media.” The vocals speed out in a spitting maelstrom as a metallic sounding synth writhes like a tortured thing.

The vocals echo in while the wriggling, repeating twist of high sound adds a swirling feeling of worry. I find the nervous feeling of the high synth quite effective. The guitar growls through the music, adding another layer while the chorus soars.

The memory hole is a place in which the worst atrocities can fade away. This is a song about the way the memory hole swallowed George W. Bush and his cronies. Faustbot starts by saying, "This here is the story of a monster who surrounded himself in kind.”

We are reminded about how he claimed to be “compassionate despite the executions during his time” and about how the “living nightmare” of 9/11 was exploited to bring “Gog, Magog, and The Great Beast” alive with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The chorus says simply that “His name is naught but death. His every living breath brought down a new sunset” before the song continues to remind us of what happened during the Bush presidency.

Faustbot points out that by keeping people afraid and paranoid, he profited from terrorism by making “cash from contracting” because “logistics rule in the desert.” The second chorus is full of incredulity as Faustbot says, “Some days, seems so insane that I can’t work up the nerve to believe it, but it's all legit.” He adds that the “monster king” has been turned into a myth.

In New Orleans, the Bush administration’s failure to respond appropriately resulted in a situation in which “the dead were floating through the city streets, the town arena was mobbed, survivors hunted down by white supremacists.” In reference to the head of FEMA at the time, Michael Brown, Faustbot reminds us that Bush said he did “a heckuva job.”

The issue of the torture at Abu Ghraib prison also comes under Faustbot’s scrutiny as he points out that “the monster king loved to order torture of whoever the CIA saved from a life of imperial resistance.” He adds that, “the pictures taken there are timeless, papered over by a thousand words.”

Faustbot asks, “What became of the king after his reign ended?” He adds that while one might assume that he was held responsible for what had happened, he got off with the media cultivating a “a persona of a doddering, friendly old man and the people lapped it up.” He concludes that in “his every living breath a curse on those he left Impoverished, crippled, dead.”

“The Funk” comes into being as an energetically flowing beat moves along with a funky guitar line as the smooth, throbbing drums are joined by a swirling mass of elevated, buzzing synth. I enjoy the synth wriggle as the drums batter away and the open, bleak vocals echo above them. The twangy guitar cuts in supporting the vocals and the drums shatter along.

Depression is a terrible force for destruction and Faustbot isn’t afraid to talk about its effects. The symptoms leave him with his head “inside a fog of gauze” and unable to concentrate. He goes on, “My brain is screaming and I cannot clearly see what's the starting cause” as the weight of it hits him “like a lead apron.”

He points out that “some wires get crossed inside of my mangled mind and the world goes dark.” It gets so bad that “sometimes my mind tries killing me.” He is honest in the chorus as he says that it makes him feel like “just a worthless stain on the environment.” Faustbot says it happens often enough that he’s “slightly bored” but it results in “an opening of ancient wounds” that make him feel “like I am doomed.”

The depression saps his energy and leaves him to “pout it out” on the couch. He feels the “pressure mounting” as he counts down “the days until I feel okay.” Next up, the depression serves him up “the anxiety to see what kind of cruelty it can wreak on my psyche” as it “tag teams” him and leaves him reeling.

The reality for Faustbot is that “I've had suicidal ideations since the age of seven and I'll be on my medications 'til I'm stuck in heaven.” He adds that it doesn’t matter because without them he can’t break out of “a funk that’s funked me up.” He’d rather spend his time making music because “it’s work, it's art, it's me It's fun, but damn it's therapy.”

Faustbot’s vision expands to take in the way that “mental health is treated poorly in this broke economy.” He points out that working class jobs “grind us down then leave our health in shambles.” The end result is “minds in tatters, our lives on rails.” He adds that he’ll take his medication to get through the day, but “something inside says this isn’t the way I’m meant to live, to work to death.”

Faustbot is concerned that “we’ve crossed the line into another time, a grave new world.” He says that “our medications may be treating our external symptoms” but they “help us slot into our prescribed lives.” He concludes, “Keep in mind that while they may not treat the living sickness, they're better than the symptoms are by miles.”

A swirling, almost heroic synth line climbs up and the rapid, skanking drumbeat moves underneath it to commence “Primer or the Obligatory Ska Song.” There’s a “spy movie” quality to the main melody that I like as it moves with Faustbot’s rapid fire lyrics and the stuttering drums. The minor key nature of the melody emphasizes the darkness of the message while the hollow, open vocal makes it clearer and the ska beat pushes on.

The corporate classes are presiding over an increasingly toxic, damaging capitalist system and eroding society as a result. Faustbot digs into the situation in this song. He opens by alluding to a “tightening of the screw” in a system where “my boss is watching me watch him watch you.’ Every move is being tracked but Faustbot warns, “One of these days, oh, we're gonna snap. Keeping, keeping, you all on track!”

In the chorus, he expresses his hope to see “A new trend, on the TV. Workers going on strike, across industries.” Meanwhile Faustbot finds himself “laid off again, outsourced, automated” with his unemployment checks coming to an end. He adds, “Centrists talk, say they want to help, but they never lift a finger. They only protect themselves.”

Sowing division is another tactic used by the ruling class as Faustbot explains in the line, “All this talk of middle class is meant to separate the working class down into camps of who can die and who is saved.” He says that the “neoliberal powers that control our every move” cast themselves as arbiters of who deserves saving.

Faustbot elaborates on the “capital religion” and its one virtue and one sin. He explains, “The only virtue is net profit and the sin is losing it.” Labour is the greatest expense in business so, as the lyrics lay out, “Why not automate the jobs away and pocket what labor would cost.”

That type of thinking, Faustbot points out, comes from the “C-suite psychos” who need more money to “fill the void that leaves them incomplete.” He concludes that “no matter how much cash they shove into those gaping holes” they can never fill the emptiness in them which leads them to “consume this breaking world and us.”

“Utopia” starts out with an oscillating, energetically leaping synth that’s joined by a battering beat. The drums speed along while more delicate, softer feeling vocals soar out in an uplifting melody, leavening the weight and darkness that has surrounded much of the album.

I enjoy how the shimmering synths vault up as the chorus soars. There’s a return to the shifting, bright synth lead and the gentle vocals. The driving drums oscillating synth line are broken by the arcing climb of the chorus as the song ends.

This is a song about how, perhaps, what humanity needs is some outside intervention to create a new existential paradigm. Faustbot talks about the “swirling image of a metal ball” as it bursts into the atmosphere and touches down. He adds “we come in peace and we hope the same can be said of the aliens.” Faustbot creates a tactile image of “reaching out for their six fingered hands” and also for one another’s souls.

He goes on to say that “we hoped this day would come” because we need “a new wisdom” to replace the one “tattered and torn” through out of control capitalism. Faustbot says that “we want to share our music and dancing” so the aliens are welcome to “share the peace you can bring.”

Faustbot points out that we “need a brand new paradigm to wash away this Piscean age.” He elaborates, “So many of us are willfully blind, we need some help moving on.” The problem, Faustbot says, is that “our leader lead but then they fog the trail” so we can’t see past ourselves. In the end, those leaders have “succeeded in making us fail” so we don’t need them any more.

An aggressive, seething synth bass line is joined by attacking drums to start out “The School Shooting.” The guitars keep up their bright charge while the sharp, bursting vocals cut in. I am touched by the poignant contrast as the melodic chorus moves over the twanging, jangling guitars while the beat batters on. Faustbot’s staccato vocal delivery scatters the lyrics in again. His voice cuts as a writhing synth line skips over the top of the drum assault, glittering despite the darkness of the words.

The sheer terror of yet another American school shooting unfolds in this song. It begins as “here he comes, he has a gun, shooting. Coming down the hallway for more kids” despite the day having started out as “just another Tuesday.” Now they have to “Quiet down, get down anyway. Know nothing will ever be the same.”

There’s a sadness in the fact that they “we know what to do. We've trained for this moment all our lives.” He adds in a moment of compassion, “I just hope he never had to.” An image of terror is painted in the description of a classmate’s anxiety attack and the way she is “pulled down by her friends, safely. Hand over her mouth like she's a child.”

The true horror of it is that “we know there are no heroes coming to try and take him down.” The fact that he’s armed makes no difference as “no one is coming to save us now.” All they can do is face their demons as they are “staring right into the face of death.” In this situation, “one errant sneeze could leave us all with nothing left."

Faustbot evokes the atmosphere of “fear and sweat, mixing” and the awful realization that the second story windows are open, but not enough to fit through. There’s “another staccato blast, screaming” right next door. A young woman says “Fuck this” and “cracks the door, starts running” and then they hear “a pin drop, shot, and sudden scream” as there’s a horrible “wet thud” and now they sit in stunned silence knowing they are next.

The last moment has arrived and there’s only one chance to “take him out or die trying” even though there’s really not a chance. Now the door is kicked in and they “grab his gun, shout out ‘everybody run!’ “ but there’s nowhere to go. A “shot rings out” and the narrator says “I’m on the floor.” He goes on, “I feel so cold, except the hole burning brighter than the sun.” Finally “the screams fade into a blur, my eyes close.” The song ends simply “Here I go, I’m coming home.”

Conclusion

Technicolor Dreamboat is well summed up by a quote from Jim Hightower, a Texan writer with a similar sense of anger about inequality and injustice. He said, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.” Faustbot takes a stand, raises his voice and refuses to be silent about the wrongs of the world.

© 2021 Karl Magi

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