Gunship – Gunship
A collage in grit and neon, machine grease, nostalgia, synth arpeggios and unintelligibly harmonised moans; a weird marriage of 8-bit and HD; good fun. Gunship’s album teaser promised a contemporary paean to the age when digital entertainment was in its late-twentieth century metastasis: the 80s apogee of cinematic spectacle, the birth of videogames and skin on TV. A synthwave side project of Dan Haigh and guitarist Alex Westaway, with drummer Alex Gingell and other collaborators, Gunship’s eponymous debut delivers exactly this.
Their sound is synesthetic, likely why it’s lent itself well to music videos, first Fly For Your Life and then The Mountain, a collaboration with 8-Bit Bastard, made in GTA V’s Director Mode – listening, you’ll see yellow road paint flashing, airplanes’ wing lights above, auroras and empty android eyes. There is a formula – arpeggios aplenty, grinding engine chords behind, basically meaningless vocals (‘One thing I know for sure, you’ve gotta fly for your life … You’ve got those dangerous eyes, you’ve got those dangerous …’), with synth-strings shooting by, rocket trails or tracer rounds. Sure to please collectors of 80s movies soundtracks, Tech Noir features a John Carpenter voiceover, while gear-changes on tracks like Kitsune and what sounds like a guiro on Maximum Black show the group can do more than diddle with synths and lay down rocketship chords.
So when does one listen to Gunship? While flying a fighter jet, certainly; when preparing to knife-fight a chief zombie, or during sleep-deprived coke-and-barbiturates sex; when the party’s over but you still have a buzz going – you start to clean up the place, lit only by the blacklights and your computer screen.
Most of the lyrics are invitations – ‘Won’t you come away with me? We can rest our bones …’ ‘I’d kill to be with you’ – oddly unqualified, not really backed by anything. Maybe it’s an invitation to project nostalgia into the future, to make something new with an era’s incredible excess. Gunship doesn’t demand your attention, but the group’s cinematic sound might put you in a techno-trance, time-travelling back through some portal in dark arcade. It’s vacuous in the best of ways – something like David Foster Wallace’s description of ‘big-screen entertainment’s unalloyed good fun’ in Infinite Jest, Gunship enters you; it doesn’t know you, it doesn’t see you, but all the same the only thing it wants is to entertain you. And it will.