Like most rappers/pop stars, Jay-Z spouts rhetorical questions because in his universe, he knows the answer to everything. So when Hov asks “what would you rather be underpaid or overrated?” the correct answer is “not the one where I’m making less money and less people know my name”. “Plankton Icke and Tina Turner David City Limits”, the debut LP from Sydney bedroom project The E.L.F. – aka former Gerling member, backpack enthusiast and current Betty Airs frontman Darren Cross – is probably the most underrated Australian album of last year. By Jigga’s logic then, Cross must be underpaid like a uni-student-slash-online-music-writer from Brisbane. It doesn’t help that he self-released the album for free late last year or that it went largely unnoticed by the majority of Australia’s media outlets (except these legends) but because Cross is basically the anti-Radiohead of releasing music, we thought more people should learn about the album’s genesis. To wit, we asked Cross to provide a track-by-track analysis of this frequently brilliant ode to break ups, technology and dreams. Read on to see which songs were inspired by his brush with anti-depressants, brief love in Berlin and French actress Audrey Tautou.
Buy “Plankton Icke and Tina Turner David City Limits” here.
First, Cross’ statement about the album: “It took me about 2 and half years to complete my debut album. I recorded and produced most of the music in my bedroom.The title is a play on a few ideas…David Icke/Icke and Tina Turner / Nut-bush City Limits and plankton. Its an album about breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend.”
1) Never Again: I was staying at my mates house in Melbourne doing an E.L.F DJ set at Streetparty or something and I found some Zoloft (anti depressant) in the kitchen. I had never taken it before and freaked out and took some and just created this drone sound and just tranced out heaps on it. The song is about trying to live with your partner and move to a new better place and it not working out so then you just pack your own stuff out and move on. I like how people say “never again” but took it to mean “never” is happening again. Never refers to the Hollywood notion of true love. Lyrics were written and recorded in one take spontaneously.
2) Ain’t Going “Out” Like That: This is another trancer…I think I wrote this after touring with Muscles around Australia. That whole tour was really confusing. The end refrain is about how life changes /relationships end but the memories that endlessly loop around our heads….like where you grew up/first boyfriend/girlfriend…feelings…like the corners of my mind…n
3) (Fuck You All And) Goodnight: This song is about getting painful memories you keep locked up all out. It’s just a story…it’s a showdown, complete closure. The Goodnight part is like thank you and goodnight…the show is over.
4) You Really Love It: This one is an ambient pop cruiser…Funny ideas about meeting up with long loves/old flames…and being excited about reminiscing about the good old days but realizing the bad old days are still there as well. “As the sun rising puts me in tune” is my favorite line on the whole album.
5) Audrey (émeute du cœur): émeute du cœur means riot of the heart.The song is written about the actress Audrey Tautou…I thought it would be a funny idea if Audrey hit onto me and and I turned her down. Just watching a film and thinking that none of her problems were real and how life would be great if we could write the script and everything was beautiful/happy endings…and of course Audrey did ask me out…dreaming….
6) Avec Moi/Avec Vous (Runaway with me): This song is over 8 years old. I wrote this song after briefly living in Berlin and falling for a girl who I have never seen again. Bit of a post travel depresser. I wrote the chorus just really recently overcome with romantic ideas of just running away from all life as you know and traveling forever-in-love around the world. It’s a real pretty song I think. It’d be a good song for a rom-com with Jennifer Goodwin.
7) Distant Ping (Echo Request): Acoustic indie disco song with funny ideas and disco strings. It’s about thinking of someone who is a great distance away from yourself. Ping is a computer network administration utility used to test the reachability of a host on an Internet Protocol (IP) network and to measure the round-trip time for messages sent from the originating host to a destination computer. The name comes from active sonar terminology. So it’s like getting a psychic message when thinking of someone overseas…but a ping is a message with no response. Young people like to think of ping as a drug reference to Ecstasy.
8) Then the Wheels Leave the Ground: Main concept was if I could just put a “wake me for meals” sticker on myself like when on a long airplane trip. If i could do that forever would I ever leave the plane? Continually moving from place to place. Sleeping, eating-no problems-perpetual escapism. It also feels great sometimes, when flying, to feel the wheels leave the ground, it’s almost cathartic to me like see you later Sydney I’m off for an adventure. Also had slow motion skateboarding in mind for this number….
9) Will We Ever Know?: Let’s just say I was in a really positive mood the day I wrote this song. Got a real Gerling electronic type of vibe which was something I tried to not let appear on this album. But these sounds make me feel happy. This banger could sell cars and make grumpy people happy, make dogs smile, aliens land, politicians honest. Hang on I’ve gone too far again…
10) The Anti Nightmare: Jesus this song took me 6 months to write. Vocal in one take – lyrics on the spot. Just the music was tweeksville.The Anti Nightmare is about your dreams happening before you die, basically.
Title Image Provided by Darren Cross