Tag: Tears For Fears (Page 1 of 4)

MUSIK MUSIC MUSIQUE 3.0 1982 | Synth Pop On The Air

Cherry Red’s ‘Musik Music Musique’ series now reaches its third volume and 1982 when there was “Synth Pop On The Air”.

From the team behind the ’Close To The Noise Floor’ compendiums, the excellent ‘Electrical Language’ set but also the rather confused ‘Music For New Romantics’ box, this 3CD collection documents the year after SOFT CELL hit No1 with ‘Tainted Love’ in the summer of 1981 while THE HUMAN LEAGUE did likewise with ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to bag that year’s Christmas topspot. 1982 began with KRAFTWERK belatedly reaching a No1 too with ‘The Model’, a track from 1978’s ‘The Man Machine’.

It was as if the world had caught up with the sound of the synth. The period was also notable for affordable silicon chip based polysynths such as the Roland Juno 6 and Korg Poly 6 entering the market. In tandem with the improvement in quality of cassette-based 4-track Portastudios, electronic music became more accessible with basic home studios now a hive of musical creativity.

While the big hitters such as SOFT CELL, OMD, BLANCMANGE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ULTRAVOX are represented by album tracks and B-sides alongside breakthrough singles by NEW ORDER, FASHIØN and HEAVEN 17, the curiosity value of ‘Musik Music Musique 3.0’ is boosted by a greater proportion of lesser known tracks and acts compared with the first two compendiums.

Often dismissed as a MOR act thanks to the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘Take My Breath Away, BERLIN are provided a platform for the provocative and more classically Moroder-esque ‘Sex (I’m A….)’. Meanwhile with a not dissimilar throbbing template, DEAD OR ALIVE’s ‘What I Want’ in previously unreleased demo form captures the band in transition from proto-goth to HI-NRG disco and sounding like both simultaneously.

Wonderful lost synthpop jewels include the melodramatic ‘Juliet’ from PASSION POLKA and the bouncy SPANDAU BALLET inspired instrumental ‘Profile Dance’ by SERGEANT FROG, an early alias of PWL mixmaster Phil Harding. Echoing the slightly overblown vocal styles of the period, ‘Future Shock’ by COMMUNICATION falls under the spell of ASSOCIATES while both ‘Climb Down’ from THIRTEEN AT MIDNIGHT and ‘Instant Feeling’ by AERIAL FX are percussively anxious.

The two best rare highlights both come with links to Glasgow; fronted by David Rudden, ENDGAMES played with a brand polished synthpop funk of which ‘First Last For Everything’ is a good example. Meanwhile, LEISURE PROCESS were the duo comprising of Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle whose small portfolio of singles were all produced by Martin Rushent; although the vocals were virtually unintelligible over the clattering Linn Drum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax, ‘Love Cascade’ remains a cool dancefloor friendly number reflecting the decadent spirit of the times.

The underrated COLOURBOX are represented by the 1982 single version of ‘Breakdown’ while DRINKING ELECTRICITY’s ‘Good Times’ explores a synth art funk hybrid that threatens to turn into ‘The Locomotion’. An actual cover version, JULIE & THE JEMS take on ‘1-2-3’ is a reflection of how commercial pop had become synthed up, especially when it is learnt that front woman Julie Harris was part of the line-up of TIGHT FIT that got to No1 later in 1982 with ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’; incidentally that rework was produced by Tim Friese-Greene who later became Mark Hollis’s writing partner in TALK TALK who themselves are represented on ‘Musik Music Musique 3.0’ by their slightly underwhelming debut single ‘Mirror Man’.

There is a surprise in that Arthur Brown of ‘Fire’ fame with his synth experiment ‘Conversations’ and it is suitably crazy and enjoyable in the manner of early FALCO. The late Austrian himself is represented by ‘Maschine Brennt’ while German neighbours DIE KRUPPS’ ‘Goldfinger’ is a welcome inclusion that exposes their more DAF-like origins.

Adding a less confrontational continental tone, ‘Par Hasard’ by MIKADO is a slice of delightful electro-lounge, while Belgium’s TELEX bring swing into the mix with ‘Sigmund Freud’s Party’ and Switzerland’s YELLO exude their quirky playfulness on ‘Heavy Whispers’, albeit with a darker disposition.

It is interesting to look back at the lesser remembered Kim Wilde single ‘Child Come Away’ and Toyah’s 1982 re-recording of ‘Ieya’ which were both synth dominated but failed to crack the Top 40 despite the sound being ubiquitous on the airwaves. There was the beginning of a notable synth backlash after the triumph of 1981 and DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS fiddly ‘Come On Eileen’ becoming the best-selling UK single of 1982 was a surefire sign. And that was without the Musicians Union motion to ban synths from recording and live performance.

Cult acts of the period FAD GADGET, THE PASSAGE, FIAT LUX, SECTION 25 and POEME ELECTRONIQUE along with the two Thomases, Dolby and Lang don’t miss out on the party, but notably absent are bands who had been part of earlier sets such as NEW MUSIK and VISAGE whose 1982 albums have worthy material to mine.

Closing with OMEGA THEATRE and the quite bizarre but entertaining ‘Robots, Machines & Silicon Dreams’, its classic pop theatrics are not entirely surprising as its creator John Carter co-wrote the 1970 Eurovision runner-up ‘Knock, Knock Who’s There?’ for Mary Hopkin, ‘Let’s Go to San Francisco’ for THE FLOWER POT MEN and ‘Beach Baby’ for THE FIRST CLASS.

However, as before, there are minor quibbles; while the correct 1982 versions of NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, TEARS FOR FEARS ‘Pale Shelter’ and Paul Haig’s ‘Justice’ feature, ‘European Son’ by JAPAN comes in the earlier John Punter B-side version rather the snappier 1982 Steve Nye single remix. And then having mentioned in the booklet that OMD’s ‘She’s Leaving’ was released as a slightly remixed 1982 single in Benelux territories, the compilation goes with the familiar 1981 ‘Architecture & Morality’ album cut. Meanwhile the inclusion of ‘Sex Dwarf’ from 1981’s ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is a head scratcher when the 1982 SOFT CELL B-sides ‘Insecure Me’, ‘….So’ or ‘It’s A Mug’s Game’ would have been more interesting.

Lessons have still not been learnt from previous booklets with photos of OMD from 1984 and DEAD OR ALIVE from 1985 appearing. Again, the booklet notes are a mixed bag; why bother to bang on about the John Foxx-era of ULTRAVOX with the limited word count when by 1982, the Midge Ure-led version were an established hit machine? Also, why does the story of JOY DIVISION need to be repeated ad nauseam  in the context of NEW ORDER?

Meanwhile, DRAMATIS (who are represented by their best single ‘The Shame’) returned to being Gary Numan’s live backing band in 1983, not 1982! Then with the biggest gaff in the TEARS FOR FEARS section, Curt Smith played bass NOT guitar and vice versa for Roland Jaime Orzabal de la Quintana to give his full name!

So full marks for the amount of lesser known material gathered on ‘Musik Music Musique 3.0’, but please get the accompanying booklet sorted out for ‘Musik Music Musique 4.0’ as there have been enough opportunities now to get that side of the operation right. Roll on 1983…


‘Musik Music Musique 3.0: 1982 – Synth Pop On The Air’ is released by Cherry Red on 17th February 2023 as a 3CD boxed set

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-3-0-1982-synthpop-on-the-air-3cd-box-set/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13tn February 2023

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1983

In addition to albums, several standalone singles were to be key to 1983 for those with a preference for the synthesized form.

NEW ORDER’s ‘Blue Monday’ and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Tour De France’ became iconic works while the David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto collaboration ‘Forbidden Colours’ not only bravely tackled a topic during a period when gay pop stars and media personalities still felt unable to openly come out, but also reinforced the value of a movie tie-in.

Sampling was no longer the preserve of wealthy musicians and their Fairlights as the cheaper but still expensive Emulator became more widely available. Meanwhile the Roland Jupiter-6, Prophet 600, the Roland TR-909 and Roland MSQ-700 became the first instruments available with MIDI. Digital synthesis became affordable via the astonishingly affordable Yamaha DX7, although it proved to be a nightmare to programme. As a result, the music world fell into a preset trap overnight with the sound of simulated slap bass, flute and harmonica appearing on almost every pop record for the next few years…

But synthesizers and electronic sounds ceased being a desired texture as the huge success of David Bowie with his ‘Let’s Dance’ album meant every band would soon add a brass section to their line-up. SPANDAU BALLET, who perhaps may have triggered pop’s brass aspirations back in 1981 with ‘Chant No1’, went all smaltzy with ‘True’ and this coincided with the rise of pseudo-soul pop such as WHAM! and CULTURE CLUB. Meanwhile, in alternative circles, bands like THE SMITHS were spearheading the backlash with their frontman Morrissey declaring “there was nothing more repellent than the synthesizer…”

However, the old guard from Synth Britannia soldiered on and continued to experiment while acts who perhaps were not electronically-minded at their heart could see the benefits of embracing the developing technology, such as having more streamlined line-ups and dispensing with drummers.

However, a sign of the confusing artistic mindsets of the period came with Gary Numan’s ‘Warriors’ album and its dreadful artwork with our hero looking like Mad Max after a visit to the hair salon, but annoyed that his mulleted mane had been dyed the wrong colour. Things had looked promising for his return to the UK live stage after retiring in 1981, but he fell out with producer Bill Nelson during the recording sessions.

With the embracement of jazz funk influences and sax solos appearing whether they were really needed or not, the result was a well-played if confused record that was the beginning of a creative confidence crisis that would afflict Numan for at least another decade.

So here are 20 albums selected by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1983. Listed in alphabetical order, there is a restriction of one album per artist moniker where beyond this place, the rains are falling hard…


CABARET VOLTAIRE The Crackdown

Richard H Kirk and Stephen Mallinder became seduced by the sequenced adventures of NEW ORDER and electronic dance music emerging from New York. Signing to Some Bizzare and licensed to Virgin Records, ‘The Crackdown’ was produced by Flood and featured contributions from Dave Ball of SOFT CELL on the title song and ‘Animation’. Meanwhile the stark single ‘Just Fascination’ helped the album become CABARET VOLTAIRE’s highest ever UK chart entry at No31.

‘The Crackdown’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://mute.com/artists/cabaret-voltaire


CHINA CRISIS Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2

Produced by Mike Howlett, ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ allowed CHINA CRISIS to deliver a more cohesive album following the four producers who steered their debut ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’! Best known for the brilliant ‘Wishful Thinking’, the album is much more with melancholic synth melodies and woodwind counterpoints, from feistier numbers such as ‘Animals In Jungles’ to more atmospheric set pieces like ‘Here Comes A Raincloud’ and ‘The Soul Awakening’.

‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ is still available via Caroline International

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


DEPECHE MODE Construction Time Again

The first album featuring Alan Wilder as a full member as well as Gareth Jones as Tonmeister, ‘Construction Time Again’ saw DEPECHE MODE experimenting with found object sampling. Mixed at Hansa Studios in West Berlin, it was a socially conscious record featuring Cold War paranoia on ‘Two Minute Warning’, environmental concerns on ’The Landscape Is Changing’ and the now ironic anti-capitalist statements ‘More Than A Party’, ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Everything Counts’!

‘Construction Time Again’ is still available via Sony Music

https://www.depechemode.com/


DURAN DURAN Seven & The Ragged Tiger

DURAN DURAN may have yielded a 1984 No1 single in a Nile Rodgers remix of ‘The Reflex’ but overall, ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ was an over produced disappointment. Recorded in France and Australia, tensions between the band and producer Ian Little led to the ubiquitous Alex Sadkin to be brought in. Despite this, highlights included the punchy ‘Shadows On Your Side’, the JAPAN inspired instrumental ‘Tiger Tiger’ and the forgotten single ‘New Moon On Monday’.

‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ is still available via EMI Music

https://duranduran.com/


ENDGAMES Building Beauty

The success of ABC and HEAVEN 17 heralded a new age of technologically enhanced blue-eyed soul. One band with aspirations in that field were Glasgow’s ENDGAMES. ‘Universe Won’t Mind’, ‘Desire’ and ‘Waiting For Another Chance’ were among the standouts. Meanwhile ‘Love Cares’ was like a funky CHINA CRISIS walking into the recording sessions of ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ and by coincidence, singer David Rudden had a passing resemblance to Gary Daly!

‘Building Beauty’ was originally released on Virgin Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/50709-Endgames


BRIAN ENO Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

Recorded as a soundtrack to a documentary about the Apollo moon missions, Brian Eno wanted to convey the feelings of space travel and weightlessness as a reaction to the uptempo, manner of space travel presented by news reels of the day with their fast cuts and speeded up images. Although based around a Yamaha DX7, it was instrumentally varied featuring Daniel Lanois’ countrified guitar on its best known track ‘Deep Blue Day’, as well as ‘Silver Morning’ and ‘Weightless’.

‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’ is still available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.brian-eno.net


EURYTHMICS Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

The first of two EURYTHMICS albums in 1983, after their German-inspired debut ‘In The Garden’, Annie Lennox and David A Stewart explored the synthesizer and acquired a Movement Drum Computer. Recorded in their newly equipped 8 track home studio, ‘Love Is A Stranger’ was the breakthrough. Despite its hopeless nihilism, the title song went global but there were other notable songs such as ‘I Could Give You (A Mirror)’, ‘I’ve Got An Angel’ and the brilliant forgotten single ‘The Walk’.

‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ is still available via RCA

https://www.eurythmics.com/


JOHN FOXX The Golden Section

John Foxx had envisioned ‘The Golden Section’ as “a roots check” with a psychedelic electronic rock flavour. This came to a head on a revised ‘Endlessy’ which captured an accessible uptempo euphoria. With folk laden overtones, ‘Ghosts On Water’ was a highlight along with the powerful opener ‘My Wild Love’. But away from these influences, ‘Twilight’s Last Gleaming’ was a glorious haunting closer. Foxx later remarked the album was a mistake as he tried to “fit too many favourite things together”.

‘The Golden Section’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


PAUL HAIG Rhythm Of Life

Produced by Alex Sadkin, ‘Rhythm Of Life’ was the one and only attempt by Paul Haig to crack the pop mainstream away from the frantic guitar driven angst of his previous band JOSEF K. Highly percussive and lifted by some sub-ASSOCIATES rhythm guitar and big layered synth riffs, ‘Never Give Up (Party Party)’ showed great promise while ‘Heaven Sent’ was a superb reimagination of SIMPLE MINDS’ ‘I Travel’ for the New York dancefloor. A lack of hits failed to ignite wider interest in the album.

‘Rhythm Of Life’ is still available via Les Disques Du Crépuscule

http://www.paulhaig.com/


HEAVEN 17 The Luxury Gap

After the success of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, the second album ‘The Luxury Gap’ was HEAVEN 17 aiming to be incredibly popular. With a Roland MC4 Micro-composer and Linn Drum driving their System 100s and Jupiter 4, there were Top 5 hits in ‘Temptation’ and ‘Come Live With Me’. Still experimenting, ‘Lady Ice & Mr Hex’ was a surreal marriage of synthesizers with jazz while with the use of a Roland TB303 Bassline prominently on ‘Let Me Go’ pre-dated acid house.

Available on the album ‘The Luxury Gap’ via Virgin Records

https://www.heaven17.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Fascination!

Trying to follow-up ‘Dare’ proved to be a fractious experience with producer Martin Rushent leaving the sessions after creative conflicts with various members of THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The few completed tracks were issued on a North American mini-album. While included were the ‘Love Action’ B-side ‘Hard Times’, the catchy title single and the electro-Tamla of ‘Mirror Man’, they were topped by ‘You Remind Me Of Gold’ and Rushent’s mix of ‘I Love You too Much’.

‘Fascination!’ is still available as part of the boxed set ‘The Virgin Years’ via Virgin Records

https://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


NAKED EYES Burning Bridges

Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher were NAKED EYES and while their Simmons heavy Bacharach & David cover of ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’ didn’t trouble the UK Top 40, it reached No8 in the US. Produced by Tony Mansfield of NEW MUSIK, the eponymous debut album used a Fairlight, Synclavier 2, PPG Wave 2.2, Emulator, OBX-a and Prophet 5. Not another Bacharach & David cover, a further US hit came with ‘Promises Promises’.

‘Burning Bridges’ is still available as ‘Naked Eyes’ via Chrysalis Records

https://www.nakedeyesmusic.com/


NEW ORDER Power, Corruption & Lies

Using sequencer-like effects on interim singles ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ and ‘Temptation’ had set NEW ORDER on a new path and while there were still guitar driven songs such as ‘Age Of Consent’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’, hybrids such as ‘The Village’ and ‘Ultraviolence’ utilised a pulsing electronic backbone. ‘Your Silent Face’, dubbed the “KRAFTWERK one”, was the ultimate romantic homage to Kling Klang but strangely, the track that seeded it all ‘586’ lost its menace in its album incarnation.

‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ is still available via Warner Music

http://www.neworder.com/


OMD Dazzle Ships

A brave sonic exploration of Cold War tensions and economic corruption, ‘Dazzle Ships’ was not what Virgin Records expected from OMD after three Top5 hits. Of its two singles, the jangly ‘Genetic Engineering’ was only a minor hit while the scathing attack on TV evangelism ‘Telegraph’ failed to get into the Top40. Although it featured some of the band’s best songs like ‘The Romance Of The Telescope’, ‘International’ and ‘Radio Waves’, ‘Dazzle Ships’ sold poorly on release but it has since been re-evaluated.

‘Dazzle Ships’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


SOFT CELL The Art Of Falling Apart

Pop stardom did not suit SOFT CELL so there was no option but for Marc Almond and Dave Ball to self-destruct. The imploding disposition of ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ title song couldn’t have soundtracked a mental breakdown any better. Despite the sinister romp of ‘Baby Doll’ and the explicit ode to promiscuity ‘Numbers’, ‘Forever The Same’ and ‘Loving You Hating Me’ could have been a singles, while ‘Where The Heart Is’ and ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’ featured highly relatable domestic narratives.

‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ is still available via Mercury Records

http://www.softcell.co.uk


TEARS FOR FEARS The Hurting

With a magnificent combination of synth, preset rhythms and conventional instruments, ‘Mad World’ had set the scene for TEARS FOR FEARS’ debut album ‘The Hurting’. But it disappointed some, as it not only had all four singles to date been included but also two B-sides. But the majority had been reworked while the fraught tensions of the title song and ‘Memories Fade’ found favour amongst the new material. The re-recorded ‘Pale Shelter’ became a hit on second time of asking too.

‘The Hurting’ is still available via Mercury Records

https://tearsforfears.com/


THOMPSON TWINS Quick Step & Side Kick

Now down to a trio, the Alex Sadkin produced ‘Quick Step & Side Kick’ was the third THOMPSON TWINS album. Although ‘Love On Your Side’ was to be the breakthrough hit with the catchy but potentially annoying ‘We Are Detective’ following, the exotic funky non-hit ‘Lies’ deserved greater recognition while ‘Judy Do’ gloriously borrowed from Lou Reed’s ‘Satellite Of Love’. This was without the Grace Jones cameo on the bonkers ‘Watching’ and the rousing ‘If You Were There’.

‘Quick Step & Side Kick’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.thompsontwinstombailey.co.uk/


WHITE DOOR Windows

WHITE DOOR formed from the ashes of prog rock combo GRACE. Led by the sensitive vocal presence of Mac Austin, he backed by the Davies brothers Harry and John on synths. Produced by a young Andy Richards, ‘Windows’ saw its title song get BBC Radio1 airplay. The beautiful choir boy synthpop of ‘Jerusalem’ was later covered by Swedish synthesist Johan Baeckström, along with another album track ‘School Days’. Baeckström wolud join the trio for their 2020 comeback.

‘Windows’ is still available as a CD from Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/whitedoorband/


YAZOO You & Me Both

Despite the success of ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’, all was not well in the YAZOO camp so by the time of ‘You & Me Both’, Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet were working in the studio separately. ‘Ode To Boy’ was rescued from B-side obscurity while ‘Nobody’s Diary’ was the mighty swansong single. The album contained Moyet’s poignant anti-war statement ‘Mr Blue’ but in the Vince Clarke voiced ‘Happy People’, he came up with his most polarising composition since ‘What’s Your Name?’.

‘You & Me Both’ is still available via Mute Records

https://yazooinfo.com/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Naughty Boys

As a reaction to the over-seriousness of their previous two albums, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA lightened up considerably for ‘Naughty Boys’. The most commercial record of their career, this was highlighted by the joyous lead single ‘Kimi Ni Mune Kyun’. But while ‘Opened My Eyes’ could have been any Western synthpop act, ‘Lotus Love’ revealed some unexpected psychedelic overtones and ‘Kai-Koh’ showed that the trio had not lost their ear for exotic timbres.

‘Naughty Boys’ is still available via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th January 2023

25 SONGS NOT SUNG BY THE LEAD VOCALIST

Wikipedia says “The lead vocalist in popular music is typically the member of a group or band whose voice is the most prominent melody in a performance where multiple voices may be heard”.

It also adds “The lead vocalist may also be called the main vocalist or lead singer. Especially in rock music, the lead singer or solo singer is often the front man or front woman”. A BBC Radio 4 parody series ‘Radio Active’ first made the joke in 1981 that “Ringo Starr isn’t the best drummer in THE BEATLES” and in a similar way, it could be said that Bernard Sumner is not the best singer in NEW ORDER.

However, the lead vocalist is considered the figurehead and often the character of a band so regardless of what is said publicly about democracy, a hierarchy inevitably ensues.

But what happens when another member of the band takes their turn at the front? In most cases, it is just a one-off although sometimes it becomes recurring feature over successive albums. These tracks can meet with varying degrees of success, but there have even been occasions where the second vocalist eventually becomes lead singer! However, there have been strange situations where a less vocally competent instrumentalist is unhappy about the attention that a singer is getting and insists on switching roles, thus ensuring that the band does not play to any of its strengths!

So taking things back to front and with a limit of one track per act, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK presents a list of 25 songs not sung by the lead vocalist in chronological, then alpnabetical order…


ULTRAVOX Mr X (1980)

Having been an idea that dated back to the John Foxx-era of ULTRAVOX just before his departure, the KRAFTWERK influenced robotic spy story of ‘Mr X’ was voiced by Warren Cann while Midge Ure was settling in as the band’s new lead vocalist. The track had begun as ‘Touch & Go’ and been premiered live. In a gentlemen’s agreement, keyboardist Billy Currie gave his melody of ‘He’s A Liquid’ in return for Foxx’s melody to ‘Touch & Go’, hence the structural similarity to ‘Mr X’.

Available on the album ‘Vienna’ via Chrysalis Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


DEPECHE MODE Any Second Now (1981)

Although now known as a songwriter, Martin Gore had contributed an instrumental ‘Big Muff’ and one song with lyrics ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ on DEPECHE MODE’s debut album. Written by Vince Clarke like most of ‘Speak & Spell’, ‘Any Second Now’ was a beautiful minimalist set piece that stood out amongst the dance friendly synthpop tunes and suited an understated tone of expression. And so began a tradition of Gore taking on DM’s ballads instead of front man Dave Gahan.

Available on the album ‘Speak & Spell’ via Sony Music

https://www.depechemode.com/


DRAMATIS Turn (1981)

DRAMATIS were the former Gary Numan live band and while they were musically virtuoso, the band’s Achilles’ heel was vocals. RRussell Bell and Denis Haines were the quartet’s main singers and Numan himself guested on their biggest hit ‘Love Needs No Disguise’. The classically trained multi-instrumentalist Chris Payne found himself a reluctant vocalist on a song he had written called ‘Turn’; “I have never felt comfortable about my own voice” he clarified.

Available on the album ‘For Future Reference’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/45761-Dramatis


NEW ORDER Doubts Even Here (1981)

After the end of JOY DIVISION, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris reconvened as NEW ORDER while recruiting Gillian Gilbert on keyboards and guitar. Synths and drum machines were taking greater prominence but not entirely. While Sumner did the majority of the vocals on their debut album ‘Movement’, it was Hooky’s fraught delivery on ‘Doubts Even Here’ and words from The Bible spoken by Gilbert that provided the album’s most glorious moment.

Available on the album ‘Movement’ via Rhino

http://www.neworder.com/


KISSING THE PINK Watching Their Eyes (1982)

Best known for the profound anti-war statement ‘The Last Film’ which entered the Top20 in 1983, KISSING THE PINK had Nick Whitecross as their lead singer. Produced by Colin Thurston, the baroque opera tinged ‘Watching Their Eyes’ saw saxophonist Josephine Wells provide a haunting impassioned vocal. Wells went on to play live with TEARS FOR FEARS but sadly, she was to later battle her own traumas as a survivor of the Marchioness boat disaster in 1989.

Available on the album ‘Naked’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/kissingthepink/


CHINA CRISIS Wishful Thinking (1983)

After his OMD success, Mike Howlett produced the most synth based CHINA CRISIS long player. Utilising Emulator strings and a pizzicato sample derived from plucking an acoustic guitar string close to the bridge, ‘Wishful Thinking’ was written and sung by guitarist Eddie Lundon. A sweetly textured, melodic pop single that deserved its hit status, lead singer Gary Daly responded with ‘Never Too Late’ but that song was shelved to B-side status for sounding too similar.

Available on the album ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ via Caroline Records

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial/


TEARS FOR FEARS The Hurting (1983)

While Roland Orzabal is more or less seen as TEARS FOR FEARS lead singer now, that is not how it was perceived at the start even though he sang their debut single ‘Suffer The Children’. Following three Top10 hit singles prior to the release of their debut album ‘The Hurting’, Curt Smith was considered the face and the voice of the band. Orzabal was main songwriter and sang lead on the title track with a more angst-ridden take than was heard on the Smith-fronted singles.

Available on the album ‘The Hurting’ via Mercury Records

https://tearsforfears.com/


YAZOO Happy People (1983)

Of Vince Clarke’s most polarising song since ‘What’s Your Name?’ for DEPECHE MODE, Alison Moyet said “That could have been the beginning of the end for us… in fact, no it wasn’t because Vince had already decided to leave. ‘Happy People’, I just tried singing it a couple of ways and I just hit him with ‘I can’t do this, you want it sung, you sing it yourself mate!’… so he sang it himself, fair play to him”. The song was an ironic send-up of middle aged political activists.

Available on the album ‘Three Pieces’ via Mute Records

https://yazooinfo.com/


BERLIN Rumor Of Love (1984)

Multi-instrumentalist John Crawford had proved himself a capable if almost anonymous singer when duetting with BERLIN front woman Terri Nunn on their 1982 breakthrough track ‘Sex (I’m A…)’. But for the B-side of the 1984 Giorgio Moroder produced single ‘No More Words’, Crawford did a lead vocal turn on the Mike Howlett-helmed ‘Rumor Of Love’ which echoed Scott Walker and ended up as a bonus track on the original edition of the ‘Love Life’ album

Available on the album ‘Love Life’ via Rubellan Records

https://www.berlinmusic.net/


OMD Never Turn Away (1984)

While Andy McCluskey was the lead singer of OMD, Paul Humphreys would see his less frequent vocalled tracks released as singles with ‘Souvenir’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Forever Live & Die’ becoming international hits. While their fifth ‘Junk Culture’ saw forays into brass sections, calypso and reggae, ‘Never Turn Away’ was a more traditional OMD ballad with Autumnal atmospheres but while it was a fine album track, it made little impression as a single release.

Available on the album ‘Junk Culture’ via Virgin Records

https://www.omd.uk.com/


PROPAGANDA Dream Within A Dream (1985)

While Susanne Freytag was the original PROPAGANDA vocalist with her stark narrative style, she soon stepped back in favour of her friend and TOPOLINOS bandmate Claudia Brücken. While Freytag’s Germanic prose remained vital on songs such as ‘Doctor Mabuse’ and ‘P-Machinery’, her vocal style suited the lead role on ‘Dream With A Dream’, a 9 minute epic which put a mighty soundtrack to accompany an Edgar Allan Poe poem which was first published in 1849.

Available on the album ‘A Secret Wish’ via ZTT Records

https://www.xpropaganda.co.uk/


KRAFTWERK The Telephone Call (1986)

On the disappointing ‘Techno Pop’ née ‘Electric Café’ album, Karl Bartos gave an assured performance in his only lead vocal for KRAFTWERK on ‘The Telephone Call’. While the assertive automated phone messages were a sharpened metaphor for female empowerment, band politics were at play when Ralf Hütter refused to let Bartos lip-synch his part on the monochromatic video although Wolfgang Flür got to mime a single phrase while cast in shadow.

Available on the album ‘Techno Pop’ via EMI Music

https://kraftwerk.com/


PET SHOP BOYS Paninaro (1986)

“Passion and love and sex and money – Violence, religion, injustice and death” went the opening phrases of Chris Lowe’s debut lead vocal for PET SHOP BOYS. Dryly spoken rather than sung, the track was a celebration of an Italian fashion cult. The middle eight featuring an ‘Entertainment Tonight’ interview saw Lowe deadpan: “I don’t like Country & Western. I don’t like rock music. I don’t like Rockabilly. I don’t like much, really, do I? But what I do like, I love passionately!”

Available on the album ‘Alternative’ via EMI Music

https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


NITZER EBB Let Beauty Loose (1987)

With Douglas J McCarthy fronting NITZER EBB, the singing abilities of instrumentalist Bon Harris only came to the fore with his ‘Songs From the Lemon Tree’ lockdown live streams of solo covers often tinged with falsetto. But on the ‘That Total Age’ album, he had shouted his way through ‘Let Beauty Loose’, a typical slice of frantically paced EBM. Acting as a supersub in late 2021, Harris stood in for a hospitalised McCarthy at two NITZER EBB shows in Palm Beach and Toronto.

Available on the album ‘That Total Age’ via Mute Records

http://www.nitzer-ebb.com/


BOOK OF LOVE With A Little Love (1988)

Originally from Philadelphia, BOOK OF LOVE were started by school friends Susan Ottaviano and Ted Ottaviano who were not actually related. Jade Lee and Lauren Roselli Johnson joined later on and the quartet were invited to support DEPECHE MODE on two US tours while their single ‘I Touch Roses’ was reissued in a Daniel Miller remix. Although Susan Ottaviano was lead vocalist, Ted Ottaviano impressed on ‘With A Little Love’ which was co-produced by Flood.

Available on the album ’Lullaby’ via Noble Rot

https://www.bookoflovemusic.com/


CAMOUFLAGE Sooner Than We Think (1989)

German trio CAMOUFLAGE named themselves after a YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA track. While Marcus Meyn was lead singer and the voice of hits like ‘The Great Commandment’, on their second album ‘Methods Of Silence’, both instrumentalists Heiko Maile and Oliver Kreyssig did a vocal turn, with the latter’s ‘Sooner Than We Think’ considered worthy enough to include on their first two Best Of compilations ‘We Stroke The Flames’ and ‘Rewind – The Best Of 95-87’.

Available on the album ‘Methods Of Silence’ via Universal Music

https://www.camouflage-music.com/en/News


KON KAN Move To Move (1989)

Despite Kevin Wynne being the voice on KON KAN’s sample heavy NEW ORDER inspired international hit ‘I Beg Your Pardon’, he was a hired hand as the mastermind behind the project was Canadian producer Barry Harris. The surprise success led to an album for which Wynne did most of the vocals for. However, Harris took the lead on the album’s title track. For the next two KON KAN albums ‘Syntonic’ and ‘Vida!’, Wynne was not recalled.

Available on the album ‘Move To Move’ via Atlantic Records

https://www.facebook.com/konkanofficial


THE HUMAN LEAGUE One Man In My Heart (1995)

Phil Oakey has often cited Susanne Sulley as the best singer in THE HUMAN LEAGUE. While she famously did a verse on the UK and US No1 ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ as well as various solo phrases on ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’ and ‘Heart Like A Wheel’, she didn’t get a lead vocal turn until ‘One Man In My Heart’. The format of the song fitted right in with the rise of female fronted trios like DUBSTAR, SAINT ETIENNE and PEACH.

Available on the album ‘Octopus’ via EastWest

https://thehumanleague.co.uk/


DURAN DURAN Medazzaland (1997)

After their panned 1995 covers album ‘Thank You’, DURAN DURAN were in a state of turmoil; Simon Le Bon was experiencing writer’s block while John Taylor was suffering from depression. This state of affairs led to Nick Rhodes working more closely with guitarist Warren Cuccurullo and the keyboardist taking a spoken word lead on the title track of the ‘Medazzaland’ album. Taylor left halfway through recording while the end product was only released in the US.

Available on the album ‘Medazzaland’ via Tape Modern

https://duranduran.com


LADYTRON True Mathematics (2002)

With a template similar to PROPAGANDA, LADYTRON had a singing vocalist in Helen Marnie while Mira Aroyo provided stark spoken prose in her native Bulgarian. While the latter had been an enticing subplot to ‘Discotraxx’ on the debut album ‘604’, Aroyo took the deadpan lead on the fierce ‘True Mathematics’ which opened their next album ‘Light & Magic’. Owing a debt to THE NORMAL’s ‘Warm Leatherette’, it premiered a much harder LADYTRON sound.

Available on the album ‘Light & Magic’ via Nettwerk

https://www.ladytron.com/


KID MOXIE Medium Pleasure – Marsheaux remix (2009)

KID MOXIE began as a duo comprising of Elena Charbila and Erica Zabowski, recording an EP ‘Human Stereo’ and album ‘Selector’. Although Charbila took the majority of the lead vocals in her airy continental style, Zabowski adopted more of a snarl on ‘Medium Pleasure’ with a lyric attacking cultural mediocrity. By the time ‘Selector’ was released, the pair had already parted.

Available on the album ‘Selector’ via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie


DE/VISION Kamikaze (2012)

Forming in 1988, German duo DE/VISION have been a mainstay in Europe for enthusiasts of darker electronic climes. Comprising of Steffen Keth on vocals and Thomas Adam on synths, their vast majority of their songs have been sung in English. For their 2012 album ‘Rockets & Swords’, there was a surprise in the penultimate song ‘Kamikaze’ which was not only voiced by Adam but also in Deutsch.

Available on the album ‘Rockets & Swords’ via Popgefahr Records

http://www.devision-music.de


TWINS NATALIA I Avoid Strangers (2014)

TWINS NATALIA comprised of Marc Schaffer, Steve Lippert, synth wizard Dave Hewson and singers Sharon Abbott and Julie Ruler, with the latter three from cult combo POEME ELECTRONIQUE. With classic Weimar Cabaret melodies and vibrant Kling Klang interplay, they conjured memories of holiday romances. But the uptempo ‘I Avoid Strangers’ featured Hewson on vocals, possessing a paranoia that suited the song perfectly.

Available on the album ‘The Destiny Room’ via Anna Logue Records

https://www.facebook.com/twinsnatalia


CHVRCHES High Enough To Carry You Over (2015)

The two Martin Doherty vocalled tracks on ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ polarised opinion and his voice made an appearance again on the synth driven funk of ‘High Enough To Carry You Over’ for CHVRCHES second album ‘Every Open Eye’. While nowhere near as accomplished as main vocalist Lauren Mayberry, by taking on a more Americanised drawl in the vein of MISTER MISTER, this was a big improvement on the stoner vibe of his previos two singing attempts.

Available on the album ‘Every Open Eye’ via Virgin Records

http://chvrch.es/


APOPTYGMA BERZERK Nearest (2019)

The project of Norwegian Stephan Groth, APOPTYGMA BERZERK went Deutsch on the ‘Nein Danke!’ EP while displaying a prominent “NEWWAVESYNTHPOP” legend on its artwork. ‘Nearest’ saw Stephan’s live bandmate and brother Jonas step into the limelight on a chilled electronic ballad ‘Nearest’ that possessed the same ethereal qualities as the best known APOP track ‘Kathy’s Song’. Jonas Groth has since stepped fully up to the front in his own synthpop duo PISTON DAMP.

Available on the EP ‘Nein Danke!’ via Pitch Black Drive

http://www.theapboffice.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Catrine Christensen
31st December 2022

2022 END OF YEAR REVIEW

Photo by Tapio Normall

It was hoped to be a year of positive electricity but with the oddball burst of negative waves, 2022 was summed up by the title of its best album.

The product of Finnish duo SIN COS TAN, ‘Living In Fear’ captured the anxieties of living with The Bear Next Door in a post-pandemic world. With billionaires taking over social media with the intent of allowing the extreme right wing an increased voice, it was as if the lessons of Trump and Bolsonaro had not been learned.

‘The Wolves Are Returning’ warned xPROPAGANDA on a track from their excellent album ‘The Heart Is Strange’, the message coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation “did nothing” and had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis was extremely poignant.

It was as if The Cold War had never ended; the poetry of one who has escaped ethnic genocide and been separated from next of kin as a refugee has substance. So for Alanas Chosnau on his second album with Mark Reeder, this was ‘Life Everywhere’ and provided a deeper statement on life during wartime. Meanwhile China’s STOLEN presented their ‘Eroded Creation’ and explained ‘Why We Follow’.

Battles both worldwide and personal were being reflected in music everywhere with ‘War’ by I SPEAK MACHINE being another example. Things did not get much cheerier with Rodney Cromwell whose long-awaited second long player ‘Memory Box’ provided commentary on a sadly post-truth world, the so-called “alternative facts” as Donald Trump’s extremely dim advisor Kellyanne Conway liked to put it.

The decade so far has not been a barrel of laughs and the likes of UNIFY SEPARATE, BOY HARSHER, O+HER, NNHMN, VANDAL MOON and ADULT. captured the zeitgeist of the past 3 years.

Meanwhile, MECHA MAIKO maintained it was still ‘NOT OK’, I AM SNOW ANGEL felt it was now a ‘Lost World’ and Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO made their comeback by reflecting on ‘Sad Cities’.

As sardonic as ever, DUBSTAR presented their second collection of kitchen sink dramas since they reconfigured as a duo with ‘Two’ and reunited with producer Stephen Hague for their most acclaimed record since their 1995 debut ‘Disgraceful’.

On a more optimistic note, Italians Do It Better brought their cinematic world to London with headline shows by DESIRE and MOTHERMARY who each had new long form releases to air, while shyness was nice for the most promising breakthrough act of the year Gemma Cullingford who got all ‘Tongue Tied’ on her second long player. Meanwhile DAWN TO DAWN, ULTRAFLEX and H/P offered electronically escapist solutions to the year,

But KID MOXIE was happy to ‘Shine’ with the best video of 2022 while CZARINA got mystical with ‘Arcana’, Karin Park looked back at her ‘Private Collection’ and Patricia Wolf explored ambience on ‘See-Through’. Other female talent that shone brightly in 2022 included Norway’s SEA CHANGE, Sweden’s Hanna Rua, Alina Valentina from The Netherlands, Mexican Valentina Moretti and Anglo-French avant songstress Julia-Sophie but sister / brother duos MINIMAL SCHLAGER and SPRAY proved siblings could continue to work well together in synth.

40 years after the release of their debut album ‘Happy Families’, BLANCMANGE returned home to London Records for a ‘Private View’ while mainman Neil Arthur was keeping himself busy with FADER too. Having being shelved for 30 years, the second ELECTRIBE 101 album ‘Electribal Soul’ finally saw the light of day. And some 39 years after it was first conceived, the lost Warren Cann and Hans Zimmer opus ‘Spies’ was released in a new 21st Century recording by the HELDEN Project’s lead vocalist Zaine Griff.

Although PET SHOP BOYS celebrated their career with the magnificent ‘Dreamworld’ tour for the best live event of 2022 and joined SOFT CELL in the ‘Purple Zone’, Marc Almond and David Ball presented the disclaimer ‘*Happiness Not Included’ before announcing that they would be performing at a run of outdoor events in 2023 despite having stated their 2018 O2 extravaganza would be their last.

Also having declared a final album in 2014, RÖYKSOPP returned with the triple volumed ‘Profound Mysteries’ that featured Susanne Sundfør and Alison Goldfrapp.

Veterans Howard Jones, William Orbit, Jean-Michel Jarre and Wolfgang Flür as well as long-standing Nordic combos LUSTANS LAKEJER and A-HA released new albums but while the quality across the releases was mixed, fans were loyal and happy. After various trials and tribulations, TEARS FOR FEARS returned with ‘The Tipping Point’ and erased memories of the lacklustre 2004 comeback ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’, but the duo were unable to capitalise when the majority of the UK concert tour of stately homes was cancelled due to an unfortunate accident that befell Curt Smith.

Creating a dehumanised technologically dependent Sci-Fi world, DIE KRUPPS opted for more machine than metal under their EBM pseudonym DIE ROBO SAPIENS. With NASA making its first steps back to the moon with the Artemis project, fittingly Italian producer EUGENE spent ‘Seven Years In Space’ and Ireland’s CIRCUIT3 looked back at space travel’s past on ‘Technology For The Youth’. Back on earth, THE WEEKND was still being accused of stealing from synthwave while coming up with the song of the year in ‘Less Than Zero’. In the meantime, having infuriated audiences by saying “f*ck that ‘synthwave’ stuff as u name it” in 2018, KAVINSKY was ‘Reborn’ with a second album that had much less of the wave and expanded into broader electronically generated templates with the occasional funkier overtones.

Celebrating ‘40 Years Of Hits’ on a sell-out arena tour and issuing a new album ‘Direction Of The Heart’ which featured a guest appearance by Russell Mael of SPARKS on the single ‘Traffic’ with the obligatory ‘Acoustic Mix’, as the excellent book ‘Themes For Great Cities’ by Graeme Thomson highlighted, the best years of SIMPLE MINDS are now well behind them. They are a poor facsimile of the great band they once were and as a special Summer concert in Edinburgh in honour of ‘New Gold Dream’ proved, Jim Kerr and Co can’t even play their best album properly.

Music-related books continued to be popular with Martyn Ware and Karl Bartos respectively writing their memoirs ‘Electronically Yours Vol1’ and ‘The Sound Of The Machine’. In a wider historical context, that crucial 1978-1983 period where electronic pop was more or less invented got documented in the encyclopaedic ‘Listening To The Music The Machines Make’ by Richard Evans.

2022 saw several prominent figures depart for the jukebox in the sky; Vangelis, Manuel Göttsching, Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, Dave Smith, Herb Deutsch, Terry Hall, Robert Marlow and Andy Fletcher will be sadly missed but ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was particularly devasted by the passing of German electronic legend Klaus Schulze only 4 days after he gave a rare interview to the site.

Meanwhile Dave Gahan and Martin Gore announced yet another tour of underwhelming arena shows plonked into stadiums for an as-yet-unfinished album that at least had a title ‘Momento Mori’. Ticketscalper took advantage with so-called dynamic pricing (or legalised touting) as hapless Devotees were fleeced thousands of dollars in North America… all this just to see a continually ungrateful frontman (who didn’t even sing is own words on a DEPECHE MODE song until 2005) gesture with a microphone in the air on a catwalk rather than actually singing on it and to possibly hear a pre-1985 song performed that will inevitably ruined by The Drumhead and The Noodler!

As Juls Garat of Massachusetts goth band PILGRIMS OF YEARNING observed via social media: “If you’re spending a kidney on DEPECHE MODE tickets and not attending a local show this weekend, I don’t wanna see you complaining that there’s no scene, local venues or new music anymore”. With the lack of curiosity amongst audiences who were content with nostalgia and the like, it was a difficult year for independent acts.

There is no easy answer and as the old saying goes, you can take a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. But one promoter that did hit on an innovative idea was Duskwaves who came up with afternoon synth gigs. Hosted at various locations in the South East of England with the aim of drumming up daytime weekend business at venues, events started at 2.00pm and ended by 6.00pm to allow for an easy journey home or possibly dinner afterwards. Artists such as YOUNG EMPRESS, INFRA VIOLET, STRIKE EAGLE and AUW joined in the family friendly fun and while the concept was unusual, with classic synth audiences not getting any younger, it has potential.

While the worldwide situation remains uncomfortable and unsettling, for The Cold War generation, it all seemed strangely familiar. As Jori Hulkkonen of SIN COS TAN said in an interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK recently: “It feels kind of comfortable to be back in that same state of mind that you grew up in!! It’s like you grew up in not a nice place, but you get 20-30 years out of it and then you get drawn back into The Cold War state of mind. It’s where I come from and there’s nothing good about it, but somehow feels very familiar so you can handle it in a different way”.

The Cold War inspired songs such as ‘Enola Gay’, ‘Fireside Favourite’, ‘All Stood Still’, ‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’, ‘I Melt With You’, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ and ‘Five Minutes To Midnight’ which encapsulated the nuclear paranoia of the times. So if the current tensions go on any longer, how will artistic expression be affected and driven?

But as Synthesizer Patel actor Sanjeev Kohli wittily remarked of the UK’s 41 day Prime Minister aka Mad Lizzie following her successful leadership bid: “Liz Truss has now been trusted with the nuclear button. I honestly wouldn’t trust her with the bossanova button on a broken Yamaha keyboard”.

In a year which saw the bizarre scenario of a black vicar worshipping Enoch Powell on the repulsive gammon TV channel GB News and the truth about Tory PPE scandals becoming clearer, Richy Sunak, Ugly Patel, Cruella Braverman and Krazi Kwarteng continued to be the ultimate race traitors in their Westminster tribute band A FLOCK OF SIEG HEILS. Failing to look in the mirror, their role as collaborators was all as part of a wider self-serving mission to help keep the whites Reich and line the pockets of their already loaded banker mates instead of paying nurses a fair wage. Nurses are for life and not just for Covid. So what did happen to that £350 million promised for the NHS by that pompous lying posh boy Boris Johnson if Brexit happened? As Tim Burgess of THE CHARLATANS summed it all up rather succinctly on Twitter: “Worth remembering that the real enemy travels by private jet, not by dinghy” ✊😉


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 2022 playlist ‘Stay Negative To Be Positive’ playlist can be listened to at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4Mw0Fn10yNZQcrGzod98MM


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd December 2022

MUSIK MUSIC MUSIQUE 2.0 1981 | The Rise Of Synth Pop

1981 is the year covered by the second instalment of Cherry Red’s ‘Musik Music Musique’ series.

1980 was something of a transition year for the synth as it knocked on the door of the mainstream charts but by 1981, it was more or less let in with welcome arms. From the same team behind the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ compendiums and the most excellent ‘Electrical Language’ boxed set, ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0 1981 – The Rise Of Synth Pop’ presents rarities alongside hits and key album tracks from what many consider the best year in music and one that contributes the most to the legacy of electronic music in its wider acceptance and impact.

Featuring HEAVEN 17  with ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’, OMD with ‘Souvenir’ and the eponymous single by VISAGE, these songs are iconic 1981 canon that need no further discussion. Meanwhile the longevity of magnificent album tracks such as ‘Frustration’ by SOFT CELL and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ by ULTRAVOX can be summed by the fact that they have featured in 21st Century live sets alongside their parent acts’ hits.

Although not quite as celebrated, ‘You Were There’ from pastoral second John Foxx long player ‘The Garden’ captures the move from stark JG Ballard imagery to something almost romantic. DEVO are represented by the LinnDrum driven ‘Through Being Cool’, the opener of the ‘New Traditionalists’ album which comes as a statement that the mainstream was their next target; the Akron quintet were one of the many acts signed by Virgin Records as the label focussed on a synth focussed takeover that ultimately shaped the sonic landscape of 1981.

Then there’s TEARS FOR FEARS’ promising debut ‘Suffer The Children’ in its original synthier single recording and The Blitz Club favourite ‘Bostich’ from quirky Swiss pioneers YELLO. Another Blitz staple ‘No GDM’ from GINA X PERFORMANCE gets included despite being of 1978 vintage due to its first UK single release in 1981. The use of synth came in all sorts of shapes and FASHIØN presented a funkier take with ‘Move Øn’ while the track’s producer Zeus B Held took a more typically offbeat kosmische approach on his own ‘Cowboy On The Beach’.

Pivotal releases by JAPAN with the ‘The Art Of Parties’ (here in the more metallic ‘Tin Drum’ album version) and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’ highlight those bands’ then-potential for mainstream success. But in the battle of the New Romantic boy bands, the sitar tinged DURAN DURAN B-side ‘Khanada’ easily blows away the SPANDAU BALLET album track ‘Reformation’ in an ominous sign as to who would crack it biggest worldwide.

The great lost band of this era, B-MOVIE issued the first of several versions of ‘Nowhere Girl’ in December 1980 on Dead Good Records and its inclusion showcases the song’s promise which was then more fully realised on the 1982 Some Bizzare single produced by the late Steve Brown although sadly, this was still not a hit.

The best and most synth flavoured pop hits from the period’s feisty females like Kim Wilde and Toyah are appropriate inclusions, as is Hazel O’Connor’s largely forgotten SPARKS homage ‘(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up’. But the less said about racist novelty records such as ‘Japanese Boy’ by Aneka, the better… the actual nation of Japan though is correctly represented by their most notable electronic exponents YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA with ‘Cue’ from ‘BGM’, the first release to feature the Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer.

With these type of boxed sets, it’s the less familiar tracks that are always the most interesting. As the best looking member of TANGERINE DREAM, Peter Baumann had a crack at the single charts with the catchy Robert Palmer produced ‘Repeat, Repeat’ while former Gary Numan backing band DRAMATIS are represented by ‘Lady DJ’ although its epic A side ‘Ex Luna Scientia’ would have equally merited inclusion. But BEASTS IN CAGES who later became HARD CORPS stand out with the stark dystopia of ‘Sandcastles’.

The one that “should-have-been-a-pop-hit” is the ABBA-esque ‘I Can’t Hold On’ by Natasha England and it’s a shame that her career is remembered for a lame opportunistic cover of ‘Iko Iko’ rather than this, but the delightful ‘Twelfth House’ demonstrates again how under-rated Tony Mansfield’s NEW MUSIK were, and this with a B-side!

The rather fraught ‘Wonderlust’ by THE FALLOUT CLUB captures the late Trevor Herion in fine form on a Thomas Dolby produced number with a dramatic Spaghetti Western flavour that is lushly sculpted with electronics. Over a more sedate rhythm box mantra, ‘Love Moves In Strange Ways’ from BLUE ZOO swirls with a not entirely dissimilar mood.

Mute Records founder Daniel Miller was breaking through with his productions for DEPECHE MODE in 1981, but representation on ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0’ comes via the colder austere of ‘Science Fiction’ by Alan Burnham. ‘West End’ by Thomas Leer adds some jazzy freeform synth soloing to the vocal free backdrop, while ‘Surface Tension’ from ANALYSIS is an appealing instrumental.

The strangely accessible weirdness of CHRIS & COSEY’s ‘This Is Me’, MYSTERY PLANE’s ‘Something To Prove’ and the gritty ‘Brix’ from PORTION CONTROL will delight those more into the leftfield, while AK-47’s ‘Stop! Dance!’, the work of Simon Leonard (later of I START COUNTING and KOMPUTER fame) is another DIY experiment in that aesthetic vein.

Some tracks are interesting but not essential like Richard Bone’s ‘Alien Girl’ which comes over like an amusing pub singer SILICON TEENS, Johnny Warman’s appealing robopop on ‘Will You Dance With Me?’ and the synth dressed New Wave of ‘Close-Up’ by THOSE FRENCH GIRLS. For something more typically artschool, there’s the timpani laden ‘Taboos’ by THE PASSAGE and SECOND LAYER’s screechy ‘In Bits’.

More surprising is Swedish songstress Virna Lindt with her ‘Young & Hip’ which oddly combines showtune theatrics with blippy synth and ska! The set ends rather fittingly with Cherry Red’s very own EYELESS IN GAZA with the abstract atmospherics of ‘The Eyes Of Beautiful Losers’ although they too would eventually produce their own rousing synthpop statement ‘Sunbursts In’ in 1984.

Outside of the music, the booklet is a bit disappointing with the photos of OMD, TEARS FOR FEARS, HEAVEN 17, B-MOVIE and a glam-bouffanted Kim Wilde all coming from the wrong eras. And while the liner notes provide helpful information on the lesser known acts, clangers such as stating Toyah’s ‘Thunder In The Mountains’ was from the album ‘The Changeling’ when it was a standalone 45, “GONG’s Mike Hewlett” and “memorable sleeve designs by Malcolm Garrett’s Altered IMaGes” do not help those who wish to discover the origins of those accumulated gems.

But these quibbles aside, overall ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0’ is a good collection, although with fewer rare jewels compared with the first 1980 volume which perhaps points to the fact that those who had the shine to breakthrough actually did… 40 years on though, many of those hit making acts (or variations of) are still performing live in some form.

Was 1981 the most important year in synth as far becoming ubiquitous in the mainstream and hitting the top of the charts internationally? With VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ becoming a West German No1 in Spring 1981 through to SOFT CELL taking the summer topspot in the UK and culminating in THE HUMAN LEAGUE eventually taking ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to No1 in the US, the sound of synth had done its job. Setting the scene for 1982 and 1983, further editions of ‘Musik Music Musique’ are planned.


‘Musik Music Musique 2.0 1981 – The Rise Of Synth Pop’ is released by Cherry Red on 15th October 2021 as a 3CD boxed set

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-2-0-the-rise-of-synth-pop-3cd-clamshell-box/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th October 2021

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