Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts feat. Karen O
Daniele Luppi is a perpetually innovative pop musician and movie/television soundtrack composer, an artist twice nominated for Emmys and a featured musical collaborator with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, Gnarls Barkley and John Legend (amongst others.)
His last studio album was the celebrated, five-years-in-the-making Rome, a star-studded love letter to classic Italian film scores. Collaborating with the quirky Danger Mouse, the project featured vocal contributions from artists as diverse as Jack White (of The White Stripes) and the fiery Norah Jones. Some of the most renowned session musicians from Italian film’s golden era supplied the solid base, an aural tapestry evoking the magic of a bygone time. Rome rose to #5 on both the Top Alternative and Top Rock US album charts. The album’s song “Black” was featured in the final episode of Breaking Bad’s fourth season.
Daniele longed to do a similar tribute to his beloved Milan, a city where he spent a large chunk of his teenage years. From his young eyes, he took it all in – the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the elites and the downtrodden. He experienced the pop culture schizophrenia of the upscale clubs and their yuppie habitués, cokehead hedonists with unlimited disposable income, and the other lower middle class punk and disco bars, awash with disillusion, uncompromising talent and frustrated brilliance, a prodigious underworld where the drug of choice was heroin, a substance to kill the pain of hitting a glass ceiling both culturally and socially.
Daniele searched for a musical key to make his conception click. A brainstorm convinced him the dissonant sounds of 1980s New York City created a mirror image for his wistful and often angry tales of Milanese youth, their struggle with an attraction to the unattainable aesthetic beauty of the city, embodied most in high fashion and high-priced ‘commodity’ art. You will hear unmistakable echoes from New York’s No Wave, an atonal, jazzy substrata of punk relegated to the early-80s Big Apple (which spotlighted such startling acts as Suicide, Lydia Lunch’s Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and Arto Lindsay.)
This time out with Milano, Daniele teamed up with group Parquet Courts and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s vocalist, Karen O, to help deliver his vibrant, poignant vision of an emerging youth culture struggling to be heard amidst the rapid gentrification of old Milan.
Daniele explains, “Milano is a concept album. The songs are fictionalized stories about misfits, fashionistas, outcasts and junkies in mid-1980s Milan. ‘The city that is reborn every morning, that beats like a heart: positive, optimistic and efficient, Milan is to live, dream and enjoy...’ as described in an iconic TV ad of the time. But 1980s Milan had a dark underbelly – as the city became one of the world’s centers of business and fashion, there was a climate of social, political and financial chaos right below the surface. The aesthetic of Milano draws from the visual arts: from the early-80s Milanese design collective, the Memphis Group (which specialized in wild, never-seen-before furniture in geometric shapes and primary colors) to the photo-reportage work of Charles H. Traub, who shot Polaroids in the streets of Italy in the mid-80s.”
Daniele knew intuitively the Memphis Group was the perfect visual signifier of 1980s Milan, in synch with the youthful rebellion on all fronts, sweeping out the detritus of a century of decadent self-indulgence. Founded in 1980 by Ettore Sottsass, the group assimilated elements of Art Deco, Pop Art and Futurism into their furniture designs. Composed largely of Italians, the collective also included members from the United States (Peter Shire) and Japan who influenced the movement’s direction. Collectors of the group’s pieces have included such transgressive trailblazers as David Bowie and Karl Lagerfeld.