No future for you

Mark Mallman and Ryan Olcott make bleak music for a scary time.

Keri Carlson

If you cannot have the sunset, you might as well go for a Corvette. Or so goes the logic of Future Wives on their new release “Dark Side of the Man EP.”

The EP begins with whip-cracks and cat-screams before booming electro-clash beats take over, surging in a coke-sniffing pulse. A low voiced man, who sounds as if he is speaking while cupping his hands over a telephone mouthpiece and breathing heavily, and a European-accented woman take turns listing the lavish consumer goods they desire.

Yup, it sounds like the 1980s all over again. And with another Bush and another war, it only makes sense that music reflects the current state of politics, the economy and culture – which are pretty much exactly like they were 15 years ago.

A popular theory holds that the worse the political situation, the better the music. While nobody wants to see their favorite artists standing on the corner with a “Will make art for food,” sign, desperation and the fear of not making rent often result in great art.

Mark Mallman and Ryan Olcott (from 12 Rods) are two well-respected names in the Twin Cities music scene. In this current economy, however, that only takes you so far. Both artists seem down on their luck and quite hopeless. Future Wives is the result of frustrated talent, young musicians at their breaking point. Mallman and Olcott diverge from their normal styles – Mallman’s usual 1970s-inflected piano rock and the 12 Rods’ spacey indie. With Future Wives the duo instead puts on bright-colored blazers and takes their fury out on a computer, adding strange blips and fuzz like mad scientists who inhaled too much hairspray.

“Dark Side of the Man” splurges on big bass, cheesy keyboards and I-could-care-less attitudes. It’s sleazy yet fun, like a good episode of “Miami Vice.” The EP could have easily gone a step too far with kitsch, which would have gradually turned the album depressing, like watching too many hours of MTV’s spring break programming. But as the title of the EP suggests, Mallman and Olcott sneak in darker themes. Sure, there’s a wild party going on, but just wait until the hangover. Even though the title track is like a good shopping trip, the lyrics disclose near the end a buyer’s remorse of, “We don’t make love/We don’t make friends.”

“Digi as Fuck” distorts vocals, varying from low and frightening to high and chipmunky, and swirls them in a mess of glitches as if Mallman and Olcott threw the computer out the window. This clears up any doubts to whether Mallman and Olcott were at the end of their ropes.

“Dark Side of the Man” is only a small taste of Future Wives, but it definitely shows they’ve got a good thing going. Hopefully, Mallman and Olcott will release a full album, and soon – just in case Bush is as decisively thrown out of office as his father was before him.