Pop: Logging on to passionate pop
Saturday 14 March 1998
Jesse Hartman (below), formerly of slacker indie janglers Sammy, has just got up in his New York city apartment, and over the phone you can almost hear him scratching his head trying to figure out the critical reaction his new outfit, Laptop, have received over here. It's not that it's a big problem for Hartman: Laptop's first EP, End Credits, has been lapped up by radio, and someone's even gone to the bother of concocting the term "retro-futurism" in an attempt to sum it up. In brief, what Laptop have come up with is a fat slice of electronic yet passionate pop. Dealing with an ugly relationship break-up, it juxtaposes pained, overstated crooning with samples of an icy answerphone message just to jack up the melodrama. As well as sounding great it's totally vivid.
"Yeah, I also make films (as does bassist Michael Galinsky)," explains Hartman, "and while we were starting Laptop we were also making short pieces for TV about crazy characters in the East Village. The two kind of meshed a bit, creating these little stories with dialogue. We continue that theme on the next single, "Gimme the Night". It's like a sequel that traces a pick-up scene in a bar. We brought in one of my sleazy friends to be the guy, and the woman who I'm seeing right now to be the girl, and they do this dialogue throughout the song.
"I've wanted to do this kind of thing for some time, but it was when we were over in Europe with Sammy that it really got to me. We listened to a lot of radio and I heard Railroad Jerk, Daft Punk, a rap song and some classic rock tune all playing in a row. It got me thinking as they would never do that in the US. I thought that if the same person is listening to all four of those songs then why not combine them, find something in each of them and push them together? Why not have a beat with punk guitar and a crooning Vegas vocal over the top? "When I got back home, I started pulling out my old Eno records and it all just happened I guess."
So, we arrive back at the 1980s synth theme again. Hartman dreams out loud about turning Laptop into a postmodern residency in Vegas and, as a parting shot, he reveals: "On stage I'll even have this secret little weapon which is this Devo-esque keyboard that you wear like a guitar, I love it."
Laptop: Highbury Garage, N1 (0171-607 1818) 14 Mar
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