Here's exactly how much I know about being coked up: nada, which is also precisely how much I know about yachts, F-14 pilot training programs, weightlifting and jock culture. I also know very little about Kenny Loggins, except that he was known for “yacht rock” in the early part of his career, and later for making music that sounds like how cocaine feels (or so I'm told).
The machismo of the '80s appeals to me, unironically. If I could, I'd repackage myself as Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid for a day, or a fighter pilot who can crush a half-rack and go duck hunting on the weekends. But I'm not that guy. I wish I was. I didn't spend high school hating the winners — I wanted to be like them. Which is why the blind enthusiasm and raging boner-bombs from the Kenny Loggins–stamped Top Gun soundtrack does for me what watching sports does to dudes named “Slater”: It makes me feel like the popular kid, like the quarterback.
So Kenny Loggins' “Danger Zone” is basically my steroid, or coke straw at a pool party, if I were cool enough (or douchey enough) to get invited to coke-fueled pool parties.
Wyatt Blair, 24, who's never lifted a single weight in his life, who can barely grow facial hair, who's at face value some psych-rocking recluse who lives in Silver Lake with his cat (which he's almost embarrassed to admit — not the cat part, the Silver Lake part; he preferred his old digs in Pasadena, Van Halen's hometown), has somehow, without knowing it, created an album that's basically a Pepsi commercial starring my id.
“First of all,” says Blair, seated at a coffee shop in the Burbank mall with a greasy pretzel in front of him, “I think American music, fashion, food and culture is fucking great.” For context: Blair grew up roaming around the Mission Viejo Mall. “And Top Gun, for me, is so fucking American. I had my fist up when I was listening to that soundtrack. I just knew I had to make a record like that.”
Point of No Return is a 12-track embrace of catchy '80s capitalist pop-rock in the form of guy anthems. Each track on the album is also so offensively delicious that you'd think Blair is trying to be funny, or that he's cheekily piecing together his influences like Ty Segall (who mimics hipster-approved artists like Marc Bolan, as opposed to uncool shit like Loggins). But he's dead serious. You can't even hear Loggins on Point of No Return unless you really know Loggins or are willing to admit you do.
“Kenny Loggins speaks to me,” Blair says. “I also want people to hear this and feel like they're in a locker room and getting ready to win a football game.” Which is basically every Kenny Loggins '80s soundtrack song.
Blair did release one “joke album” before, Banana Cream Dream, in 2012. But there's no irony or sarcasm on Point of No Return, even on the album's one genuine ballad, “Patience,” named after his girlfriend. Instead, it's a gushingly sappy '80s power ballad that evokes the finger-licking shlock of Def Leppard's “Love Bites,” another song that influenced the fist-pumping on this record. “I know this isn't what's cool right now; I know a lot of what's cool now is ironic. But that's not what this is. I just wanted to write songs that would make me wanna do shit, like get out of my chair and go on a run.”
Fact: Wyatt Blair's favorite band is Missing Persons, best known for their '80s hit “Walking in L.A.”
I discovered Wyatt's shamelessly Reagan-esque musical palette on Facebook, where he would “like” YouTube links to Rocky IV montages, or the offensively sexy sax in Eddie Money's “I Wanna Go Back” — relics of pre–Wes Anderson American machismo.
“There's no masculinity in rock & roll anymore,” says Blair. Not that he's some chest-beating Republican who wears flip-flops, or some misogynist who thinks women shouldn't play sports; he's a sensitive kid who looks like a scruffier version of Michael Cera. “The whole record is me tapping into my alter ego,” he elaborates. “I'm obviously not a masculine guy. But I grew up admiring the football player guys. So this is me channeling the big superhero that I wish I was.” (The closing track on the album is titled “Alter Ego.”)
The album's artwork has him dressed up like Bender from The Breakfast Club, the geek trying on the criminal's clothes. It's a punch-punch-kick to who he is, or was, a puny 15-year-old at Dana Hills High School who couldn't score the prom queen but managed to get his heart broken anyhow, like John Cusack for most of the '80s: “I got into music when my high school sweetheart cheated on me and broke up with me.” He's like a character in a John Hughes movie: Anthony Michael Hall mixed with Mary Stuart Masterson in Some Kind of Wonderful, the gloved drummer who never surrendered her love. (There's a track on the record titled “No Surrender.”)
The only musical constant on Point of No Return is Blair's Roland R-5 drum machine, which provides the glossy, overproduced, '80s brilliance. The one musical exception to the manufactured cool is “Cruel World,” a reggae-tinged criticism of Hollywood and the music business where Wyatt's dad, Jim Blair (from '80s new wave group Animotion), plays real drums. It sounds like a chiller 311 song, without all the rap-rock bullshit crowding the groove.
Wyatt wrote most of Point of No Return in the mountains of Prescott, Arizona, in the cold winter of 2014 — freezing his ass off in his dad's drum room, feeling the vibes like Kenny Loggins recording December, his underappreciated Christmas album. It took Blair two years to mix his second album, while he toured with his former band, Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel. In the process, his Kenny Loggins obsession led him to write more music he describes as “early Kenny Loggins, adult contemporary,” which will be the basis of his third album, Inspirational Strawberries, his un-ironic yacht-rock record. So he's basically Kenny Loggins in retrograde, or hair metal for prepubescent teens too young to realize that the most ridiculously catchy song on the record is named after a U2 chorus from 1984, “In the Name of Love.”
Point of No Return is available everywhere on Aug.5, jointly released through Burger Records and Lolipop Records.
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