I’ve been twisting the word “cyberpunk” around in my brain after reading this thread, and I started thinking about cyberpunk music, but not in the way anyone might expect, because I was listening to Neil Young’s 1982 album, Trans, which I suppose a lot of people dislike but I think is quite interesting and cool.
Essentially, this album is the result of Neil Young learning what a computer is, buying a synthesizer and a vocoder, and just doing his thing in the most Neil Young way possible. A side note is that his son was born with cerebral palsy, and at the time, Neil was struggling to help him communicate, hence the distorted vocals. The album is kinda cheesy, but Neil Young is essentially a musical genius, so I think it has a strong resonance despite its silliness. It captures the “computers in space” musical trend, but does so with a more critical mode than something like Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Why is this cyberpunk? Well, I don’t think it is really, technically, but I think it’s an interesting adjacent work. “We R In Control” is about megacorps, “Computer Cowboy” is like if Neuromancer was a Western instead of a heist, and “Sample and Hold” is, I think, about corporate cloning.
You say in your post that cyberpunk is about analyzing late capitalism, which I think sums up Neil Young’s ethos kinda well, with his environmental, anti-war, anti-celebrity, anti-corporate, anti-marketing, etc attitude. Not only that, but the album Trans itself was involved in a lawsuit by which his record company attempted to sue him for making “deliberately uncommercial music,” which kind of hits the nail on the head.
Anyway, I just like talking about Neil Young, so perhaps I’m not making any sense. I’ve just been thinking about this thread a lot, and this is what resulted in my head.