Del the Funky Homosapien & co.’s postscript to their riveting, world-gone-mad opus, Deltron 3030, picks up in the post-apocalyptic year 3040, where life and all its forms have surrendered to the calamitous pit the 2000 album only warned us about.
Corporate evil and economic collapse dominate the dark narrative of Event II, the second danceable dystopia from Del, producer Dan the Automator and DJ Kid Koala. What remains in 3040 is a shell of a society: Earth is all but dead, extinction imminent. The saga’s hero, narrator Deltron Zero, must defect to another planet, one he finds inhabited with “the disagreeable people who broke off into a smaller pack” (Tea Party, anyone?). Present-day parallels cannot be ignored; the album’s release this week coincided with Day One of the government’s first shutdown in almost 20 years.
Event II, a “rock opera” sequel in the works since 2006, plays like an extension of its 13-year-old predecessor. The storyline doesn’t advance much, but Deltron 3030 are still masters of the unsettling tapestry: Automator’s soft spot for sci-fi backdrops and Koala’s ear for eerie cuts combine to strengthen Del’s spitfire command of Orwellian wordplay (“I was a spy/That fly on the wall that no one ever seems to recognize,” he raps on “Look Across the Sky.”)
Still, a decade’s worth of hype among Deltron devotees for a second installment did nothing to ease expectation for the long-awaited folllowup. Event II’s fits and starts and repeated delays made Deltron 3030 a victim of its own anticipation. “I intended to do it right,” Automator told me on the day he approved the master, in August 2012. It sat unheard for another year, awaiting management approval. Meanwhile, Del pursued projects with a Pixar artist and a Brazilian shoemaker. His fans got pushier. “Cats have told me I better come out with Deltron, stop teasing them,” Del told me in April of this year. “I never ordered an artist I liked to do anything for me, or else. Maybe I’m just old, you know? Maybe disrespect is the new respect.”
At 41, Del still reigns as one of the wisest wordsmiths around, even if his rhymes here offer few solutions to his laundry list of grievances. “Pay the Price” and “City Rising from the Ashes” are among his strongest, as sharp as Deltron 3030’s “Memory Loss” and “Upgrade,” in terms of their hooks and politics. What impedes the record’s momentum are its silly skits and intrusive guest spots (including one from the Lonely Island). Even a cameo from the elusive Zack de la Rocha is a forgettable, indecipherable rant that makes for an odd fit. Event II concludes without much of an ending, and maybe that’s the point: this is Del’s hell…even if you can’t go home again.
top photo by Darren Samuleson