I present to you 3 of my favourite synth-pop pickings for your emotional indulgence.
Depeche Mode – Blasphemous Rumours
The Kings of synth are the Essex boys who England forgot.
Back in 2011, an old friend studied Art at St Martins. She despised it for reasons that made me smile on the sly…such as the fact a budding artist displayed a painting of her own vagina for no reason other than ‘artistic licence’. Amazing.
In her defence, the only point of pretention my friend had to her name was a fondness for Depeche Mode.
One afternoon, the St Martins undergrads’ were tasked with commemorating the victims of the recent Japanese tsunami. Most people chose to draw the monster that claimed the lives of the innocent, but in my friend’s eyes there was no more fitting tribute than a blank piece of card containing these lyrics, hand-written. Its’ simplicity made it the most poignant response of them all… and arguably just as pretentious. We all have a shadow side, I suppose.
Professional optimist Martin Gore’s chorus is compromised of cheery refrains almost certainly lifted from a 14 year old’s diary:
“I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumours but I think that God’s got a sick sense of humour, and when I die, I expect to find him laughing.”
But it’s the synth that really wraps it all together. Depeche Mode are all shadow and no sunshine in their lyrics but that mid-80s synth sound could strike a chord of pure euphoria in even the most disaffected of souls.
It’s magical what a few misfit musos can do with the right technology.
Robert Palmer – Johnny and Mary
Formulated to give your goosebumps, released in 1980 and just shy of 4 minutes long, everything about Johnny And Mary is lovable.
If and when I hear the intro’ on the radio, my ears prick up: tune into the right station and yours will too. It’s haunting tune grabs you and holds you – there – in the present moment. Who needs meditation, anyway?
If the melody wasn’t enough, its’ third person story-telling grants you a few minutes of escapism into a 20th century reality where very few people felt liberated enough to explore their emotions, and even fewer were able to leave unhappy domestic situations. Like your parents, perhaps? (I’m just giving out ideas to connect with).
On the other hand, its’ narrative of feeling disenfranchised from the very things you are supposed to glean enjoyment from is universal. And the music will make you feel it.
Very little pleases me more than gratuitous music videos, and the interpretative dance on display is the perfect accompaniment to the big theme of despondency.
INXS – Don’t Change
I can’t help but feel this cloying tune played while John Hughes sat down to construct another coming-of-age classic.
Feast your peepers on a (very) young Michael Hutchence with all the swagger of Mick Jagger. He quite literally affects his movements to match Mick’s posturing in what must be the go-to experimentation of all new frontmen.
New to the airwaves at this time, its’ keyboard-led intro’ is reminiscent of the success New Wave bands were enjoying between ’79 to ’83 as mainstream music grew a lot more poppy past this point. And Hutchence grew a lot more hair.
The ethereal, introspective vibes must’ve clashed with the ‘rock’n’roll Aussies’ image too much for their A & R man’s liking, unfortunately. We know this because INXS veered away from this sound for the remainder of their career.
Profound synth sounds were the reserve of the New Romantics at this time in musical history so I feel privileged to be privy to this random rocky gem.
*slow fade in the minor key*