After four years, Neon Indian is finally back! While still delivering the glitzy ear candy that put them on the map, their new track “Toyota Man” and its accompanying video make it clear this is a new direction conceptually.
While Alan Palomo has certainly always put a ton of personality and life into his music, his projects as Neon Indian have mainly been apolitical up to this point. Neon Indian’s last album “Vega Intl. Night School” paints a vivid, sultry picture, but it is not one that feels grounded in the modern world. That’s why “Toyota Man” makes me excited for this next album cycle.
Sung entirely in Spanish, “Toyota Man” does not mince words. It’s about immigrants and how they have been cast aside in the United States. Palomo sings of white people giving dirty looks and officials checking papers all the time, despite the narrator not wanting problems and just getting work done. In the bridge, there’s a quip about the United States building an economy off of immigration and then kicking them out so they can’t unionize. An immigrant from Monterrey himself, Palomo remembers back to his dad being a “Toyota Man,” washing cars for some scumbag in Texas.
But despite the serious topic, the song is jubilant and funny. It proudly proclaims in the chorus how immigrants are here to study and work, and how they can’t be broken because they have their green cards. Palomo quips about learning English from television, saying as an aside “¿Cómo se dice Larry Sanders?” The final chorus features children singing along with him. “La Cucaracha” is even interpolated at points, and it just fits the light-heartedness in the face of adversity.
The music video perfectly captures the feeling. Shot on the border of the United States and Mexico, it features a party, a car wash and plenty of puppets. The party scenes star Palomo’s parents, and everyone has a good time. At least, everyone except the piñata of Donald Trump, who runs from partygoers until he bursts into candy and green cards. It’s just as tongue-in-cheek as the song itself, and it makes for a strong yet fun statement.
The only issues with the song come from its listenability. The chorus feels triumphant and enjoyable the first time you hear it, but by the end it can get a little grating. Some of the asides are distracting, and the song as a whole feels like it lacks cohesion in parts. It feels like the track was thought of for its concept first and as a song second, and it definitely holds the music itself back.
Overall, though, this iteration of Neon Indian is a trip worth taking, as always. “Toyota Man” is wry, self-aware and just as synth-heavy as you’d hope. It perfectly encapsulates the optimism of immigrants while making a statement on the gross way that America treats them. And as long as Neon Indian keeps putting out good vibes and great tunes, I’m excited to see more of this new ground from them.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @alan_palomo Instagram.
Peter Fenteany is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.