Freur: Doot-Doot (1983, Wales)

Look at them fall
Flicker and fade

There’s a line in the genetics of popular music that goes: 1970s disco -> 1980s synthpop -> 1990s club electronica -> whatever it is came next in the 00s and the synthpop revival of the 2010s.

(Of course, that’s an exaggeration; there are many other strands of DNA in the 80s synthpop primordial soup: the musique concrete of the 1950s avant garde, electronic experimentation from the 1960s,  Kraftwerk in the mid-70s with their ‘German electro’ sound which then detonated like an atom bomb around the British scene in the early 80s. And if we want to get truly nerdy (and of course we do) then most of the 1990s in computer gaming  was dominated by synthy sounds otherwise forgotten a decade earlier by the analog ‘MTV unplugged’ mainstream.)

But that line weaving from disco, into synthpop and back into club dance music still intrigues me, mostly because – generally – I’m not hugely into 70s disco, and the 1990s drug-culture club music mostly left me cold. Why? I’m not sure. I think because although I love the pure tones of synthesisers, I also love the poetry of words, and a song doesn’t really register with me unless it combines both. Dance music is music that has its eyes squarely elsewhere: it’s music not intended to be primarily listened to, and it just doesn’t work if you’re not there, live.

A band that seems to exemplify this trend is Freur, who fall neatly into three separate phases. From 1982 to 1986, a Welsh New Wavey synthpop group; reformed as Underworld from 1987 to 1990 as  more mainstream pop-dance-rock; then from 1991 on, a techno/acid house electronic dance band becoming hugely famous with the soundtrack to Trainspotting. Today, Underworld continue to be beyond huge in the British scene; they ran the music for the 2012 London Olympics. That’s pretty much the definition of ‘made it’.

Continue reading “Freur: Doot-Doot (1983, Wales)”

Dollar: Videotheque (1982, England)

Slowly senses leaving me
Once the two are in 3D we play the game

I have a strange relationship with a lot of music. There are bands who are huge names, critically acclaimed cult favourites in the music literature; in many cases, these leave me cold. Or, I’ll find one or two of their songs – sometimes a single, sometimes an obscure track – which resonate with me, while the others fly completely over my head without leaving a mark. On the other hand, sometimes the only song I’ll like from a band will be the one which, in fact, was their chart hit, proving my tastes are solidly mainstream.

New Wave and Synthpop as genres are particularly fraught for me. There are giant names – Kraftwerk, Joy Division, Gary Numan, Siouxsie and the Banshees – to whom I have an almost physical allergy. Their sound is somehow too harsh for me, too bleak.  There are plenty which are just too experimental: Art of Noise. Then there are ones which are too empty, too poppy: Duran Duran maybe. Then there are ones which are on the edge, but mostly too famous: Eurythmics, Rush, Thomas Dolby, Ultravox. (They may come up later).

The Buggles, sadly, fall for me mostly into a mix of ‘too experimental’ and yet ‘too famous’. There’s that one song which if you’re of a certain age you know by heart –

— you remember, of course you remember, you have to remember, it opened MTV in 1981–

Continue reading “Dollar: Videotheque (1982, England)”