Music for the Masses (1987) by Depeche Mode

Categories: 1987 and Music.

I agree with the general consensus that Martin Gore is perhaps synthpop’s best songwriter. At least at this “mature” stage of the band’s career Depeche Mode sound most like the band willing to leave the confines of their genre to serve his songs. I find his lyrics to be, on average, significantly better than the average synthpop lyrics. And he has strong melodies – though Depche Mode are sort of positioned as the least commercial of synthpop bands, they have always had catchy songs. Read More

Trans Europa Express (1977) by Kraftwerk

Categories: 1977 and Music.

Electronic pop music already existed (thanks to Kraftwerk) by the time this record came out, but this album still feels like the beginning of something, to my ears. Though a number of the tracks are quite long, (most of) the music feels like it could have made it onto the radio in the 80s at the height of the synthpop epidemic. Read More

This is The Ice Age (1981) by Martha and the Muffins

Categories: 1981 and Music.

Yes, this is second wave New Wave, and it sure sounds like a lot of other bands and musicians. (The guitar lead on “Swimming” is so wannabe Robert Fripp it’s not even funny. A bunch of tracks sound like Eno-lite.) But this is a strong set of songs with good lyrics and a commitment to New Wave in a way that many of these later New Wave bands were unable to match. (I mean, it’s still quirky.) Also, I am a sucker for any song that gently mocks anything I know, so the song about Ontario Cottage Country hits home Read More

Different Class (1995) by Pulp

Categories: 1995 and Music.

It’s incredible to me to listen to this immediately after Morning Glory and to hear so much more energy, verve and immediacy from a band that, on paper, should be significantly less exciting than Oasis. Anyway… I wasn’t sure what I would think about this record, but I appreciate the synth pop influence that is presenting, but hardly dominant, at a time when “guitar rock” was far trendier. A number of the songs are just so damn insistent and catchy I like them in spite of myself. And Cocker’s lyrics, sex-obsessed as they are, are intelligent and clearly personal, even Read More

Love and Dancing (1982) by The League Unlimited Orchestra

Categories: 1982 and Music.

This is a series of “instrumental” remixes of the Human League’s Dare which aimed to capitalize on that album’s success. It’s not really instrumental – the vocals are kept on some songs – and the songs don’t really sound that different (though I guess that’s most remix albums). It certainly doesn’t have a reason to exist. There’s nothing about this that is better than the original album, and there’s nothing about it that’s revelatory either. It feels like a cash grab and it’s boring. 3/10 Read More

Dare (1981) by the Human League

Categories: 1981 and Music.

I have rarely ever sat down and listened to synthpop. Really, the only album I’ve ever listened to is Violator. And listening to Dare, I really want to go back and downgrade my rating of that Depeche Mode album because, though I think the songs are better, it’s rather shocking how little the genre progressed in 8 and a half years. Shocking. I don’t like synthpop. I don’t really get its appeal. And a number of the synthpop bands began as less competent British post punk bands. Like so many other things, synthpop emerged as a dumber, poppier version of Read More