Wednesday, February 10, 2010

SYNTHcerely Yours! Great Synthpop reissues reviewed!

Sometimes, it's difficult to understand why some talented bands missed out on Pop stardom while lesser artists caught the imagination of the general public and scaled the charts.  I'm sure we all have bands from every genre that we can name who fall into this category. I've listed three bands below that really deserved far more recognition than they received but it was not to be. Thankfully, there is still interest out there and Cherry Red has listened to the requests of many music fans and are making these titles available in the digital format with plenty of bonus material!

It's frustrating when a band with so much potential doesn't even get a chance to release an album during their time on a major label!  British Synthpopsters THE MOOD are one of those bands. While not as Funk-Rock oriented as Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, the trio were classified as New Romantic alongside the aforementioned bands and others like Classix Nouveaux. In reality, they were a great Synthpop band, plain and simple.  They had a slew of top tunes that were perfect for radio play as well as the dancefloor.  

In the UK, they released a handful of singles between 1981 and 1984 that seemed to be leading up to an album.  Unfortunately, the closest they ever got was a 1983 mini-album released in the U.S. that contained key tracks from their singles plus their finest moment, "Don't Let Me Down" (never released outside of this EP). One more single after that mini-album and it was all over for the band.  What a shame, though. I would have loved to have heard so much more, especially since their final single, "I Don't Need Your Love Now", was their finest A-side.

The Singles Collection combines the A and B sides of all of their singles and EP tracks plus a few 12" mixes to boot.  If you are a fan of Japan, Ultravox, early Depeche Mode, Blancmange and other like-minded bands, don't hesitate to check them out!

While not strictly a Synthpop band, Red Box fall into this category because they are adored by Synth fans and Pop fans alike. The Circle & The Square was the duo's debut album, originally released in 1986.  Mixing Synths, acoustic guitars and a distinct World Music flair, this album was worlds away from their '80s Pop contemporaries, landing firmly in Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush territory.

On the surface, it was as infectious as anything on the charts, but the album was smart without being 'clever', sweet without being saccharine and commercial without being disposable.  It was unlike anything else at the time and the music scene wouldn't catch up for at least another five years.  There's great melodies, choirs, creative arrangements and worldly percussion running through the entire album. 

Though the band did have a few hits in the UK, they really should have been embraced by far more than just chart followers and Top Of The Pops viewers.  The Gabriel/Bush comparison is apt, as this is really music that was far more advanced than the band were given credit for.  Perhaps people just didn't understand them at the time, but thankfully, Cherry Red's Cherry Pop offshoot has reissued the album on CD, adding six bonus tracks in the process.

This is an album that is as fresh and delightful 25 years later as it was back when it was first released.  It still gives me friggin' chills even though I've heard it hundreds of times over the years. If you haven't heard it, prepare yourself for a Pop adventure!

While late to the Synthpop party, Frazier Chorus' 1989 debut album was a fantastic collection of Electronic Pop that may have been too late to compete with the brilliantly coiffed early '80s Synth brigade, but they made it up with great tunes, Synths, honest to goodness real clarinets, oboes and flutes, a keen sense of humor and leader Tim Freeman's whispered vocals. While the rest of the UK were gearing up for the whole Baggy/Manchester scene, Frazier Chorus were creating Pop gems that defied categorization yet were zesty enough to be huge hits.

They did release an earlier single on the 4AD label, but by the time Sue was released, the band were a full-fledged Pop quartet with the potential to be a worldwide success.  They did achieve some success, but the fickle public were too high on Ecstasy to notice that a great band was in their midst.

Imagine The Dream Academy with a sense of mischief and keyboards instead of gently strummed acoustic guitars. Then add a bit of Morrissey's dry humor (minus the pretentiousness) and you're only half-way to understanding just how fine Frazier Chorus really were.  There are moments here that are astounding as well as outstanding.  

Cherry Red's CD reissue adds eight bonus tracks including their brilliant cover of "Anarchy In The UK", some more b-sides and three extended mixes.  Stunning.

You're welcome!
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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