By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Confusing, yes. Let's put it another way: In an unpublished essay for the Village Voice, later posted on his blog blissblog.blogspot.com, Reynolds reminds us: "Kraftwerk stir up nostalgia for the days when we thought technology would liberate us. Immaculately groomed, dispassionate and perspiration-free, Kraftwerk still transgress most of the precepts of rock 'n' roll." Again, the nostalgia rears its head; again, with Ghosthustler part of the third generation influenced by Kraftwerk, "Parking Lot Nights" represents nostalgia for nostalgia. And that is something—meta-musical-nostalgia, maybe—but according to Reynolds, it ain't rock. "I like to think of it as future-pop," Palomo says.
I have to admit, I do not listen to much rock music.
Nostalgia thread No. 2 takes the form of famed Italian music producer Moroder's influence, specifically that soaring, stunning, throbbing electronic beat that transformed Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" from an above-average disco song into a song that changed pop music—and pop culture—forever.
"'I Feel Love,'" Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton say in their much-lauded history of dance music, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, "with its electronic pulse-beat, sequenced throb and thrum and Summer's autoerotic delivery, was a deliberately futuristic sound, a Fritz Lang vision for the dance floor...[s]omehow submerged beneath its nervous electronic sequences, like Kraftwerk, it was still funky."
"Parking Lot Nights" embraces Moroder's influence less specifically than Kraftwerk's; it's more in spirit than deed, though again the elemental connections are there: the autoerotic delivery, the deliberately futuristic sound. What's different with Ghosthustler is that Fritz Lang has been abandoned for Space Invaders. A good bit of the video's appeal, according to the gazillion bloggers who have described it, is the nostalgia of the glove. It reminds us of a more innocent time, they say, or perhaps just of the same kind of dork-cool of, say, digital watches or the rudimentary bleeps and blips of early videogames. What twists it all into something more than just a video, more than just a song, is that the guys in Ghosthustler are too young to remember it firsthand. Even Ohs notes that. "I mean, those guys weren't even born yet during the time of Nintendo," he says with a good-natured laugh (at 24, he barely was himself).
Ironic, then, that the Internet played such a heavy role in Ghosthustler's rising notability. Speaking with the band and with Ohs, you notice many of the sentences they utter contain some variation of, "...so I MySpaced him." The role of MySpace, blogs, e-mail and laptops affected Ghosthustler's world in much the same way MTV would have in the past. Only much faster. Moreover, it allowed Ohs and Ghosthustler to collaborate from hundreds of miles away, to create a finely honed video. We all thought it was the synthesizer that was going to change music, when it turns out the futurists had no idea this was coming.
Still, it all takes us back to the temporary death of rock 'n' roll. There is another '80s synth band who culled from the early days of electro, only to turn around and influence future generations: Duran Duran. There's a famous quote from the group's keyboard player (of course), Nick Rhodes. "Rock 'n' roll all goes back to R&B, but to me it's not very relevant," he said in 1987. "Kraftwerk is much more relevant." And one can see that is true again 20 years later. Rock will be resurrected, to be sure, but in the meantime, bands such as Ghosthustler are crafting a complicated aesthetic around simple songs—songs often so simple, they pique that primal human instinct to dance. And they're using what truly is the future, an idea that those futurists back in the day never envisioned: the Internet. So while we're waiting for the new future of rock, there is plenty of opportunity for complex musical elements to sneak in, for crafting new sounds or new-old sounds from the bits and pieces of nostalgic aesthetic that float just beyond our perception, that haunt American pop music like, you know, a ghost.