Getting a robot girlfriend is a time honors sci-fi cliche that dates back to the twenties and Fritz Leiber’s Metropolis. And song writers are no stranger to this. So it’s no surprise that Jeff Lynne penned a ode to loving the machine in ELO’s 1981 sci-fi concept album, Time. Adding more depth to the allegory here, the early eighties were a turning point in synthesizers, as electronic sampling ushered a new way of recording, which was, after all, all about making beautiful music together with a snazzy new computer.
“I met someone who looks a lot like you,
she does the things you do, but she is an IBM”
The POV character of this song, which seems to owe more to Gilbert and Sullivan in its verse structure than the typical poprock he is known for. It seems he’s been tranported to the future and is suffering from culture shock, especially where it comes to the companion he’s been provided, where he as a somewhat awkward relationship with, but certainly is planning on some romance, considering she reminds him of the loved one from the past he is corresponding with.
“She’s only programmed to be very nice,
but she’s as cold as ice whenever I get too near”
As a soundscape, Your’s Truly, 2095 was an awesome introduction to stereo synthesizer pop, offering an incredible experience when listening on headphones, with dynamic syth rythms and a good dose of vocodered adn otherwise interesting vocal arrangements. As for the relationship between man and machine here, well, it’s still rather tentative, say, compared with the next decade’s Duran Duran fabulously perverse Electric Barbarella. Connecting man and machine here seem a bit difficult, however, the man seems ambivalently hopeful, or at least resigned to his fate.
“Although her memory banks overflow,
no one would ever know,
for all she says, ‘Is that what you want?’
Maybe one day I’ll feel her cold embrace,
and kiss her interface,
until then I’ll leave her alone.”
Time itself was a watershed work for Lynne, ELO’s first concept album after he had introduced himself to synthpop in his songs on the Xanadu Soundtrack. And his only notable foray into scifi related music. There were several decent electropoppy tunes that failed to make the album that would later be released on compilations albums (such as Julie Don’t Live Here any more and The Buildings Have Eyes.) The inspiration would be short lived, however, with the abortive double album that became Secret Messages and the burnt out ELO that produced their last album of the eighties Balance of Power.
Below is an Anime Music Video created from the 2001 Animated remake of Metropolis (apt for this song, considering.) It includes the first three tracks from Time. Yours Truly, 2095 starts at the 4:35 mark, but It’s worth listening from the beginning.