I made you a mix cd late one night, about a week ago, I’d almost completely forgotten about it. It is incredibly self-indulgent and nerdy, that I feel the need to explain myself, so just humor me as I spill nerd guts in the form of a playlist:
1- Kometenmelodie 2//Kraftewerk
For some reason the image that comes to mind is driving down the coast in a red lego car.
2- Thieves Like Us//New Order
Such a big introduction, but Pretty in Pink soundtrack, need I say more? Definitely not a favorite song of theirs, but quintessential of the genre.
3- Limousine//Class Actress
I was so repulsed at first but I came to love it since I was jealous at how nostalgic and reminiscent their sound is
Okay I know- cheezy intrusion of the synth organ, but it’s absolutely one of my favorite pop songs, DREAMY. Also had to comb through tons of Thompson Twins, I love select singles, I only wish more of their stuff they made was great, such lost potential.
5- Confetti//Cold Cave
“You look so good on the outside,” also love his voice.
You can stop listening at 4:56
8- Bad Connection//Yazoo
You might recognize them from forgotten hits like “Don’t Go.” I combed through a bunch of BAD singles & cringe worthy melodies. But i don’t know, the pop optimism in this one is too kitschy to ignore, sort of reminds me of Wham! which is funny. There were so many songs regarding the telephone in synthpop, what a dated but cherished phenomena,
9- M.E.//Gary Numan
I know, how embarrasing- Gary Numan- but this song is really about the first 5 seconds and the bridge at 1:05. It’s synthpop, so I’m working with pieces here.
I got a little carried away in annotating the playlist so I took some nerdy precautions in color coding the notes so you could discern them from each other. You can of course skip them, but STOP LISTENING TO The Telephone Call AT 4:56 (otherwise overkill.) Actually, you don’t have to start till 1:15.
I don’t know how I became so consumed by such an ephemera in music history that was an absolute oddity. Hunting for a good synthpop song for me is often a self-destructive process. I usually stumble upon a treasure by mistake, then I start searching for more thinking that I’m actually on to something great- I tread through dissapointment after dissapointment where pity begins to pile up. I badly want those wigged out crazy haired decadent 80’s Brits to make it, to be cool! I eventually call it quits when I end up watching live performances of the Pet Shop Boys on youtube, thinking of what could have been! It’s a draining and way too personal process, though I should remember this when I often wonder why I haven’t spoken to a boy in months, that and clumsy red glasses certainly aren’t helping.
In a sense though, I love how awkward the collective voice of new wave synthpop in the 80’s is. It does feel like a relateable awkward exposition of vulnerability in a transitional period that I think could be sentiments applied to the best of us. Spending too much time on forums where I am the youngest person give or take 20 or 25 years, I’ve come to learn that the 80’s Mod revivalist that i secretly marveled from my mom’s teenage years are not widely remembered- if remembered at all. It seems to have caught small wind in the early 80’s, but apparently it has it’s own wikipedia page!
Though what most people seem to remember are the new-romantics, which adopted new wave and spawned new romantic figures like Yazoo and The Thompson Twins. And though the origins of the subculture name itself is compelling- a sort of revival of 1800’s romanticism (how ironic, given synthesizers)- new romantics, i’m convinced- led synthpop to it’s initial collapse. But if you think about it synthpop seems like a genre where a generation of musicians were figuring out the sound as they went along and groped blindly for their own voice, because really, who established a foundation for primarily synth music- it’s basic rules and patterns- that should later be broken?
Also, this was the last time it was socially acceptable to relish in your romanticism and profess your vulnerability in the from of a repetitive and accented three minute pop song. Nowadays when we sing about love it is often used as a euphenism for carnal desires and subsequent romps or alternatively scoffed at with a snide bitter cynicism. I of course would like to be spared of hearing “My Love Will Go On” EVER AGAIN, but before you could get away with classic lyrics like “I’ll stop the world and melt with you” or “like a rainbow you always set me free.” You could sing about your own melancholic indulgence, vague existential crisis, or art film uncertainties.
I know that in 15 years time I’ll be a drunk John C. Reilly in Cyrus and insist on singing and dancing to The Human League despite everyone else’s pity.
I also know that it’s totally uncool and nerdy to admittedly like Kraftwerk, but they were truly innovative. Not only were they one of the first in pioneering and establishing a sound for a primarily synth genre but also established the genre’s conceptual landscape of the future, it’s romantic problems, and human interactions amidst burgeoning technology. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a big portion, (actually most of their music,) that I can’t stomach, but finding a kitschy single is as endearing as the little engine that could. If it weren’t for Kraftwerk or the era of David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy there would never be the likes of the short lived genre or it’s genius enigmas - New Order or Depeche Mode and some Cure- and by extension contemporary “indie-hipster” synthpop or- Synthpop Revival & Synthpop ripoff- which have distinct differences, each should be regarded in separate categories. I’m getting way to ahead of myself here, I’ll stop.