Georgia – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (1981) Track from the album Architecture & Morality
On first play, the vibrant bounce of Georgia is a welcome ray of sunshine on OMD’s otherwise bleak third LP. Neatly pre-empting their 1983 Cold War-riddled record Dazzle Ships, this track, indebted to the Russian territory (and not in fact a female character), features a danceable synthpop beat, mixed perversely with pessimistic, Easterly scepticism. The lyric, from the naïve perspective of a Georgian, makes an ironic and snarlingly British mockery of the joyous arpeggiator cascades preceding the depressing, screeching end (the ‘blindfolded’ Eastern narrator, you see, is “dancing in the ruins of the western world”). With its squelchy dance dynamics, this is the best kind of new wave – that which pretentiously tries its hand at both politics and pop.
Temptation – New Order (1982) Standalone single
Enjoyed best in its full 8:56 version (complete with Peter Saville’s full, unedited 12” sleeve artwork), Temptation is arguably New Order’s all-time finest, encompassing the post-punk scratch of their former Joy Division, and the lo-fi sequential synths that would go on to define 1983’s Power, Corruption & Lies. Punchy drums and analog rhythms underpin this track with Bernard Sumner’s choppy electric guitar and Peter Hook’s high-end bass melodies weaving in and out of the mix, occassionally swamping it with their crunchy, cheaply-produced euphony. The romantic vocals deliver a timeless chorus of various eye-colours, and Sumner vacillates between deep-voiced pretention and impassioned yelping, before a falsetto finale. What’s not to love?
Oops! It’s an Accident – Gary Allen (1982) Track from the EP, In White America (This Hollow Valley Broken Jaw of Our Lost Kingdom)
A dive now into the strange world of minimal wave, a bizarre genre of punky synth, characterised by artful, pretentious melancholy and fully-analog aesthetics. Journalist Veronica Vasicka’s establishment of the Minimal Wave label in 2005 saw a surge of interest in this forgotten music, which, in even its original incarnations, was largely unknown and mostly cassette-based. Gary Allen here, presents avant-garde new wave’s campest apology going, his pantomime-like enunciation mimicking the botched translatory style from which European minimal wave famously suffers, as artists strived to sing in English. Coupled then with a tonal shift between chorus and verse that oddly traverses both menace and mirth, this is one loveable oddity indeed.
Airbrushed – Anamanaguchi (2010)
From one fringe subgenre to another! Chiptune is the ecstatic sound of musicians with a penchant for retro gaming, and Anamanaguchi are its key exponents – this, Airbrushed, is my favourite of theirs. It combines wailing rock guitars (both overdriven rhythm and screaming solos) with the irrepressible vividity of the bitty electronics’ obvious visual connotations. It’s single-handedly the most superfluous kind of music I know, its many million melodies each as kiddishly exuberant as the next. And just check out that crazy cover art: a topless chibi surfing on a ninja cat; a bounding mushroom; a huge golden robot with cannons for arms; a nuclear, rainbow haze bringing up the rear. Yes, it might be batshit, but its child-like mischievousness is undeniably cool.
Monstrous – Metronomy (2014) Track from the album Love Letters
Metronomy’s lo-fi odyssey Love Letters, is dotted with sophisticated synthesiser melodies that build on funk and soul influences to further ecclectise the already multifarious band. These songs, half-baked on first impression, are gob-stopping through earphones. Utilising wide, bassy textures, Metronomy weaves their demented lullaby soundtrack with blurred organs and damp mellotrons. Odd then, that Monstrous makes such full use of aural stereoscopy, beginning with an initially-cohesive organ coda that swerves off into the right channel as Joe Mount’s cleanly-recorded vocal intones roboticlly through the left. The neo-psychadelia experience gets spacier still as the bass later rises to clamp its wet depths firmly over ears, creating a truly three-dimensional sound. Corr.