7 years ago, Juan Maclean was so burnt out on music (and live) that he sold all his musical equipment and moved out of New York City in an attempt to rid himself of the drugs he was hooked on and the bad habits that he'd gotten into. His former band (Six Finger Satellite) had just released their last album and broken up, and he found himself in New Hampshire teaching at a school for young offenders. He kept in touch with some friends of his in NYC and they traded music back and forth, and eventually he was re-inspired to start creating music again, purchasing a sampler, computer, and keyboard.
The friends that he was keeping in touch with were James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy, who are now better known as the DFA (and Murphy in LCD Soundsystem as well), and after some time Maclean dropped his a couple singles on the label and the rest is history as they say. Less Than Human is his debut full length and musically it mixes everything from Kraftwerk to Frankie Goes To Hollywood and back again to old school Detroit and Funkadelic. Produced by the DFA, Less Than Human fits right in alongside their stable of dance music that is both retro glancing and forward looking at the same time.
The release opens with the instrumental "AD 2003" and old school synth melodies all fidget and squirm together into a short restless track before the album drops the beat with "Shining Skinned Friend." The latter track wobbles with a relentless low-end rhythm and cracking live drums while layers of airy synths percolate while Maclean adds vocodored vocals about a robot love triangle (or something like that). "Give Me Every Little Thing" follows with James Murphy on vocals and the track literally sounds like an LCD Soundsystem b-side with a Bootsy Collin-esque bassline and handclap-happy beats.
"Tito's Way" (which is the first single from the release) follows with referee whistles, blippy tomfoolery and a flatulent bassline that all boogie along with filtered vocals and a steady beat. The track barely changes at all during the four minute running length, but still manages to wiggle into your head. After that, the album hits a bit of a soft spot as both "Love Is In The Air" and "In The Afternoon" both feel more like underdeveloped sketches rather than full tracks while "My Time Is Running Out" gets things back on the rails with some super kitschy electro pop.
Running nearly fifteen minutes, the album closing "Dance With Me" is probably a smidge on the long side (especially considering that it equals about one-third the running length of the entire release), but the DFA have long liked to crack the ten-minute mark and the acid-squiggled track is no different. As an album, I enjoyed Less Than Human more than what I feel is the overrated LCD Soundsystem album, but I might be in the minority on this one. Good, but not outstanding, it's perfect for record setting heat days when your brain is alternately throbbing from the temperature and getting wracked from drinking a cold beverage too quickly.