1979, Music

Solid State Survivor (1979) by Yellow Magic Orchestra

This is some shockingly ’80s-sounding discofied synthpop. It feels like it’s miles ahead of the British synthpop bands. And if I didn’t know about Kraftwerk’s existence I might be tempted to claim it’s the birth of synthpop. But frankly I don’t have the context to properly assess music like this. When it comes to the electronic music of the 1970s, I pretty much only know German music and the stuff that made it into the mainstream in the US and the UK. And I don’t know disco at all. So there could be any number of bands who beat this one to the chase in terms of how dancy this is. But my educated guess would be that there aren’t many. (My specific educated guess is that it’s Kraftwerk.)

The songs are all very catchy. Though this is electronic music, it is electronic music that doesn’t lack for hooks. In fact, you could say that it is very clear what they are trying to do – they are trying to write earworms but on synthesizers. There is also a somewhat middling cover of “Day Tripper” here, which manages to somehow be the most conservative thing here.

As I said above, the sound is basically synthpop (the melodies) plus disco (the rhythms). Everything is very robotic, and though there are traditional instruments on some songs, they treated to sound non-traditional, or edited and mixed in as if they were programmed.

Though the record reeks of the late ’70s/early ’80s, it doesn’t sound all that terrible as a record. I could totally see a 21st century band in love analogue synths making a record like this now, so the recording is of a good quality even if the instruments date it.

I really have no idea, but this record sounds extremely influential to me, given how it’s much more accessible than Kraftwerk. It’s basically disco Kraftwerk, only with the occasional coy Japanese-accented vocals.


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