In an alternate synthpop universe, the 1984 song “Away, Away” by UK band The Promise would have been a hit. It had all the makings of a classic – ear-grabbing intro, emotional vocals, and a soaring chorus. There’s not much information available on the band, but I believe this is their first release. A bit of research turned up a couple more singles, but nothing that quite reaches the heights of this track.
Mid-eighties Washington D.C. band Crippled Pilgrims were a bit ahead of their time, and this most likely contributed to their lack of commercial success. The best way to describe their music is neo-psychedelic combined with guitar-driven post-punk, which resulted in an indie sound that would come into popularity later in the decade. The band’s debut release was 1984’s EP Head Down-Hand Out. By the time their first full-length album came out, 1985’s Under Water, they had called it quits. The track “Undone” is off the ‘Under Water’ LP.
New Zealand wasn’t known for producing many electronic acts in the eighties, and perhaps that’s why Car Crash Set slipped under the radar. It’s unfortunate, because during their short existence, from ’83 to ’86, the Auckland act turned out some pretty great music. Their sound has been described as experimental Human League with an occasional venture into “New Order-esque amalgamations of guitar and synths.” The song “Toys” is off the 1983 LP We’ll Do Our Best, a compilation of bands from New Zealand. It’s also included on the compilation LP Join The Car Crash Set, released in 2008.
Every once in a while you come across a song with a chorus that gets stuck in your head. Recently, for me that song is “Rebecca’s Room,” by London post-punk band Wasted Youth. I dare you to not be singing along with the chorus by the end of song. The single was produced by the legendary Martin Hannett, and released in 1981. The band had a short life, only active between the years ’79 to ’82, but attained cult status in Europe. Their music was very much on the darker Goth side but they could also knock out more upbeat catchy songs, as evidenced by “Rebecca’s Room.” After the band broke up in 1982, guitarist Rocco Barker moved on to Flesh for Lulu.
Posted: February 19, 2017 in Hidden Gems, New Wave, Post-Punk, Synthpop
Tags: 1986, Love Lies, New Wave, Post-Punk, Real Moral Fibre, Synthpop, Times, Venus in Furs
England’s Venus in Furs began life in the early ‘80s with four band members. By the mid ‘80s, Venus in Furs was comprised only of the solo artist Times. The music isn’t easy to define, moving from experimental, guitar-based post-punk to melodic synthpop. From the 1986 LP Real Moral Fibre, the song “Love Lies” sits on the synthpop side of the spectrum, and falls in line with the melancholy synth/guitar sound of New Order. If that’s your kind of thing, you should definitely give it a listen.
Ice the Falling Rain were a short-lived English band that played synth-driven new wave. The group was founded by former members of the aggro punk band Violators. Taking a sharp turn from their punk roots, the 1983 single “Lifes Illusion” is pure, infectious synthpop. This was the only output by the band, as they disbanded soon after its release.
Posted: February 13, 2017 in Band Profiles, Hidden Gems, Italo Disco, New Wave, Synthpop
Tags: 1982, Gay Cat Park, I'm A Vocoder, Italo Disco, Italy, New Wave, Synthpop
Besides having an unusual name, Italy’s Gay Cat Park also have an unusual story. Known for the Italo-disco, synthpop classic, 1982’s “I’m A Vocoder,” Gay Cat Park were actually two 14-year-olds obsessed with electronic music. Heavily influenced by Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk, the duo made several home-recorded tracks between the years of 1982-84, but “I’m A Vocoder” would be their only official release. Fortunately, the Medical Records label rescued these tracks and released them in a limited 8-track compilation LP, 2012’s Synthetic Woman.
Posted: February 10, 2017 in Band Profiles, Electronic, Hidden Gems, New Wave, Synthpop
Tags: 1980, Daniel Miller, Electronic, New Wave, Silicon Teens, Sun Flight, Synthpop
The Silicon Teens were a guise for a solo project of Mute Records founder Daniel Miller. After recording as The Normal (“Warm Leatherette”), Miller launched the electronic, synthpop project in 1980. The fictional group was comprised of four actors who gave interviews under the names Darryl, Jacki, Paul, and Diane. The lead singer, Darryl, was played by Frank Tovey, who some of you may know better as Fad Gadget. The song “Sun Flight” is off the only LP from the project, 1980’s Music For Parties. It’s one of the few original songs on the LP. The rest of the album is made up of synthpop remakes of rock & roll classics from the ‘50s and ‘60s, including a somewhat campy version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee.”
One of my favorite recent post-punk finds is “Late Night Show” by the short-lived London band The Beautiful Losers. I came across the group while researching UK post-punk bands. Produced by The Sound’s Adrian Borland, their sound was very reminiscent of Joy Division and early post-punk bands of the time. The song was released in 1980, and is one of only a handful recorded by the band, as they soon parted ways. Founding member Philip King would find later success as bassist for the dream pop band Lush.
Strongly championed by U2, Irish band Blue In Heaven never came close to reaching their countrymen’s heights. Starting out as a hard-edge post-punk band in 1983, they soon garnered a cult following and released a couple of singles under U2’s Mother Records. By the time they released their debut album, 1985’s All The Gods’ Men, they had moved to a darker, more atmospheric sound. This is no surprise, as they worked with Joy Division producer Martin Hannett on the LP. They had a few more releases before calling it quits in 1989, only to reform as the Blue Angles in the ‘90s. The song “In Your Eyes” is off the ’85 debut album.