Saturday, November 21, 2009

Your Daddy's Synthpop

“What is it about gay English synthpop duos from the ‘80s? They have style. They have relevance. They have staying power. They have a musician who is content to hide behind a computer during live shows while the singer commands the stage.”

I wrote that as the opening to a review of Pet Shop Boys’ Cubism DVD a couple of years ago. At the time I was referring specifically to the Boys and Erasure. Those same observations are also reported on and expanded upon in the excellent BBC documentary Synth Britannia.

If you’re a fan of pop music... hell, if you’re a fan of music, you need to watch this amazing documentary covering the genesis and evolution of synthpop in the UK. From the earliest heartbeats in the late ‘70s to the world-moving earthquakes of the ‘80s, this is a fantastic, uniquely British story that needed to be told. Influences like Kraftwerk and J.G. Ballard are given their due, while the growth of the genre is explored through the words and work of the people who were on the ground as the movement took shape.

Eight of the nine segments are available on YouTube. For whatever reason, that last 10-minute segment is nowhere to be found (I believe it’s a copyright issue in the US), but viewing what’s here will fuel your playlist selections for days!
(Don't believe me? Check out the tracklisting from the program listed below!)

Credit to the always great folks over at Slicing Up Eyeballs for the heads up on this.

Program Tracklist
1. Depeche Mode - New Life

2. Wendy Carlos - William Tell

3. Wendy Carlos - Clockwork Orange Main Title

4. Kraftwerk - Autobahn

5. The Clash - White Riot

6. The Normal - Tvod

7. The Normal - Warm Leatherette

8. The Future - 4 Jg

9. The Human League - Being Boiled

10. Donna Summer - I Feel Love

11. Cabaret Voltaire - Seconds Too Late

12. Cabaret Voltaire - Nag Nag Nag

13. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Messages

14. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Enola Gay

15. Joy Division - Atmosphere

16. John Foxx - Underpass

17. Throbbing Gristle - Still Walking

18. Throbbing Gristle - Hot on the Heels of Love

19. Fad Gadget - Back to Nature

20. Silicon Teens - Memphis Tennessee

21. Gary Numan - Are Friends Electric?

22. Gary Numan - Cars

23. Visage - Fade to Grey

24. The Flying Lizards - Money

25. Depeche Mode - New Life

26. Depeche Mode - Just Can't Get Enough

27. The Human League - Don't You Want Me

28. Heaven 17 - Penthouse & Pavement

29. Cabaret Voltaire - Landslide

30. Soft Cell - Tainted Love

31. Yazoo - Only You

32. Yazoo - Don't Go

33. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Maid of Orleans

34. Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams

35. Ultravox - Vienna

36. Kraftwerk - The Model

37. Depeche Mode - Everything Counts

38. Depeche Mode - Master and Servant

39. Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls

40. New Order - Ceremony

41. New Order - Blue Monday

42. Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder - Together in Electric Dreams

Friday, November 20, 2009

140 Characters of Laziness

I have been lamenting my own lack of motivation to write lately. I have all sorts of excuses. I travel for work, and I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. You would think that having nights available in a hotel room without the usual distractions would be perfectly conducive to writing, but when you’re on the road you end up working ten to 12 hours a day, and you eat like crap, and it’s difficult to get inspired and focus to write.

But what might be my biggest writing de-motivator... Twitter. Twitter has replaced blogging, email, and forums for me. When I come across something that piques my interest, instead of sitting down and putting a few hundred thoughtful words to paper and publishing it on my blog, I’ll shrink a URL and write a pithy comment and be done with it. Instead of taking the time to write out full-blown emails, I direct message friends short, 140-character well-wishes or good-natured jibes or whatever.

Although I am complaining about the impact of Twitter on my blogging and email, I have to admit the replacement of forums with Twitter has been truly positive. With Twitter, I avoid the general douche baggery of the forum, while still staying in touch with the folks I want to and up on the news that’s relevant to me. (On a weekly basis, from my friends who still frequent forums, I see tweets saying things like they need to get away from the forum before they type something they shouldn't or that their blood pressure is rising because of some comment they read in a forum thread.) Where forums often seem to foster the pompous, long-winded soliloquies of blow-hards, Twitter is a great natural filter (because I'm only following the people whose comments I want to read) and force the writer to get to the point quickly and concisely.

To be clear, I'm not anti-Twitter and this is not a manifesto, I just need to stop using Twitter as an excuse to not work my writing muscles. It’s time for me to shake off this laziness and make the time to flesh out some of the ideas that crop up. Instead of opting for the instant gratification of a quick tweet, I need to go back to my pre-Twitter, pre-too-busy-to-write mindset. The next time an idea strikes me, I’m going to do my best to avoid the crutch of a quick 140-character missive and instead stretch myself and exercise the ol’ noggin with some critical thinking or satire or whatever the situation calls for.