Sad Synth Sundays

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* 

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The Ferris Bueller Theory You Haven’t Heard Before…

Hughes is a teen-flick King in the mind of many film fans, perhaps due to his sincere compassion for the alienation of adolescence. His 80s era films received cult status in the years after their release, and each one was written by a 30-something year old man.

Image result for ferris bueller's day offFerris Bueller’s Day Off is basically ‘some guys have all the luck‘ for 1 hour and 43 minutes. Released in 1986, it has most of the hallmarks of a John Hughes movie: a self-aware lead character, witty dialogue, anti-authoritarianism etc., and yet it’s more optimistic than his usual efforts. The protagonist in his golden era of film would typically be a misunderstood outcast from a lower-middle class home undergoing high school trauma but Ferris Bueller breaks this mold completely. Ferris is a rich kid loved by everybody, spanning from the police department to those he manipulates in ‘junior’ year. He is an ‘everyman’* who gets what he wants and doesn’t face the consequences -an interesting morality when you see it on the page but on the big screen you accept his antics as harmless fun.

A character more in keeping with the Hughes catalogue is the ‘always sick’ (and probably clinically depressed) Cameron Frye. The most famous theory about the film is centred around this down-trodden dude and his penchant for self-pity. It has long been said that Cameron imagines the eventful ‘day off’ from his bed and Ferris is merely a figment of his imagination; the happy-go-lucky guy he wishes he could be. Sloane is supposedly based on a girl he fancies from afar in school, so she takes her place as his alter-ego’s lover. The crux of this conspiracy can be summarised by the phrase ‘…and it was all a dream’.

I think it’s a bittersweet idea, but also totally bogus.

In her book, Life Moves Pretty Fast: The lessons we learned from eighties movies (and why we Image result for ferris bueller's day offdon’t learn them from movies any more)’, Hadley Freeman points out that ‘only a teenager could think that Ferris is cool’ since his hedonism comes from a place of arrogance and immaturity. When you’re a teenager living out the mundanity of high school without much attention, you envy the ‘popular’ people because they get a reaction from everybody – some people look back at their school days and recall the misery of feeling invisible. John Hughes was one of these introspective types, so instead of creating a main character close to his teenage self again, he imagined what it would have been like if he experienced the notoriety other kids enjoyed. And thus, Ferris Bueller was born.

To add credence to this idea, all of Hughes’ teenage melodramas were based on his hometown of Chicago and filmed in surrounding areas to reflect the class divide he witnessed as he grew up. As a child, Hughes recalled his own solo trips to the art gallery frequented by the trio onscreen, adding The Smiths contemporary melancholy to give it the perfect soundtrack. By including such a scene Hughes was able to revisit these moments from a more carefree perspective – and in this film, perception is key. Ferris makes a speech during the parade aimed at Cameron’s self-imposed misery: “I’d like to dedicate it to a young man who doesn’t think he’s seen anything good today”.

 It hardly stretches the imagination to say that writing allows you to live vicariously through an imaginary realm, and with Ferris, he visualised an adolescence he wished was his own, if only he wasn’t trapped in the self-hatred typified in the familiar angst of Cameron. 

Image result for ferris bueller car
Beaut.

Maybe Ferris Bueller wrapped up his inner work in solving the injustices he experienced as a young’un in America, and he felt like the tone change was an appropriate place to say ‘Danke Schoen’ to all the audience members allowing him to grow up again.

 

*(An everyman is a misguided term referring to the supposedly normal privilege a person enjoys for being a white middle class man)