Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Periodic table of synthpop

Work and real life have conspired against me, and I didn't make any of the posts yesterday that I hoped to make and which I referred to in my last post.  *sigh*

Today, I think I'm going to punt and talk about something else that requires a little bit less thought and effort on my part as well.  I discovered this interesting little image when it was posted on Apoptygma Berzerk's facebook feed.  Synthpop is really my favorite kind of music.  And it's a bit varied.  There's more than one "style" of synthpop, as you'd expect from a genre that's been kicking around since the late 70s (usually at this point, one points out that the first song generally considered true synthpop is "Hiroshima Mon Amour" by Ultravox! on their 1977 album Ha!-Ha!-Ha!  The first synthpop album is also generally credited to Ultravox (now sans exclamation point): 1978's Systems of Romance.  However, it wasn't long before Tubeway Army, Sparks, The Human League and others were really introducing the synthpop sound, often having arrived at it independently from mixing Kraftwerk and other "krautrock" type sounds with a more poppish flavor.

Synthpop (although not known by that name in the US at the time) was intensely popular during much of the 80s (when I was a kid--hence my love of it) and especially by the late 80s, synthpop bands (often British, but not necessarily so) were regularly charting in the US--Depeche Mode, New Order, Erasure, Information Society, the Pet Shop Boys, etc. is just a taste of what came out in the mid to late 80s and received generally high sales and airplay.  By the 90s, though, synthpop dove sharply underground as mainstream tastes changed and grunge (and other movements) revolted and pushed back against the synthpop sound.  By now, however, the internet made sure that the genre couldn't die, and indie bands were able to reach a fairly high level of sales and visibility thanks to its auspices.  This is the case today, and it is well represented here, by the various splintering of styles and whatnot.

I've never heard some of these labels before (and I expect they were made up for this chart, partially tongue in cheek.  Noble synthpop?  But, somehow, it fits.)  And there's a few bands on this list that I'm not familiar with, but not too many.  I'd quibble just a tad with some placement--why is Assemblage 23 not listed with Futurepop, for example?  And why is Visage New wave and not New Romantic, when Visage almost single handedly created New Romanticism in the first place?  But these are very minor quibbles.

Rather, I think the chart is missing an important component--where is the modern mainstream synthpop?  Stuff like Lady Gaga, La Roux, Owl City, Hurts, The Presets, etc.?  Darkwave is more of a hybrid genre (as is futurepop), so if they're in, why not electroclash?

Yeah, yeah--I get it.  The entire thing isn't meant to be taken very seriously.  But still, I think those are major misses.


Anonymous said...

Nice. Cabaret Voltaire strikes me as kind of an outlier of the "foundational" synth pop bands, since they were mostly experimental and noise until the early 80s.

Bill Jameson said...

I totally agree about a23 being in the wrong place.

Kenneth Henderson said...

Missing Persons, A-ha, Tears for Fears, Talk Talk and Thompson Twins are NOT New Romantic. I was a part of the New Romantic movement and they were not considered as such. BTW, Visage IS New Romantic and arguably they actually started the movement. Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Ultravox, and Culture Club also. BTW, New Romantic was not so much a music style as it was a attitude style. As you can tell, Adam and the Ants are very different from Visage. Synthpop was not intrinsic to New Romanticism as much as some bands that we New Romantic adopted synthpop sounds.

Mindphaser said...

Also it's surprising that one of the critically acclaimed bands that helped resurrecting synthpop in the early 2000s (I mean Ladytron) is not on the chart. Even Brian Eno is a fan of them:

Gaiseric said...

Yeah, the chart's not perfect. I agree that the treatment of New Romantics are the least well done.

Keep in mind, though—who says Adam and the Ants was New Romantic? Adam Ant himself specifically rejects the label.

Leonard Kevin Moberg said...

From: Leonard Kevin Moberg®, Using My Synthpop Periodic Table.

Gaiseric said...

Who're you? I saw this on Facebook (Apoptygma Berzerk's feed, if I remember correctly) and they didn't attribute to you.