Some musicians thrive in the pool-party, palm-tree, freeway fantasia of Los Angeles. And Electric Guest, the two-man band made up of Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton, seems to be such a group. Their debut album, Mondo, was produced by the Midas of Music, Danger Mouse. And their month-long residency in February at L.A.’s The Echo became a bazaar for trading hipster cred. But that would be incorrect. One need only to watch the dark video for their single “American Daydream,” directed by Asa’s brother Jorma Taccone of The Lonely Island fame, to be convinced of their latent disdain. Taccone, whose warble channels Jamiroquai and who resembles a skinnier, feral Mark Wahlberg, crashes a classic valley party and launches an airborne assault on the otherwise anodyne, if vapid, guests. Taccone ends bloody but triumphant. This all is accompanied by a simmering catchy chant of a chorus: “They keep sellin’ / We don’t want it / So close to it / Almost found a way.”
“The L.A. world constantly bums me out,” admits Taccone, “and a lot of the album is kind of about just how empty that world is culturally.” Though the genre-skipping Mondo is about the hassles of a plasticine world, to call it only a reactionary manifesto is equally misleading. Taccone, who grew up in Berkeley, began writing the songs while living in his apartment in Seattle nearly six years ago. “I would call up my brother and sing him these songs. One day he said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a friend named Brian who would love this stuff.’” That friend was Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse.
After Taccone moved to Los Angeles at his brother’s behest for an ultimately elusive career as a songwriter for hire, he met Matthew Compton, a shy, all-American kid who lived downstairs from him in Mount Washington. The two began to flesh out the songs which Taccone had brought south with him. Remnants of the artist as a young man are still apparent. In one song Taccone sings, “They say it’s never easy when you’re 23 / And maybe that’s a lie and it’s just hard as fuck for me.” Now, distilled into a potent hook by Danger Mouse, that line has become both more compelling and less true. With their debut album generating more buzz than a bad connection, Electric Guest might not like Los Angeles, but Los Angeles, and nearly everyone else, loves Electric Guest.