No Need to Atone for Your Synths
March 14, 2009 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Not all groups with synthesizers in the 1970s and 1980s were lame Top 40 acts with keytars. Some groups of the era used synths for spastic keyboard bleeps, herky-jerky tempos, and angst-ridden aggression in a style now classified by record collector geeks as synthpunk, minimal synth, or minimal wave. Several famous New Wave acts dabbled in the style before providing soundtracks for Molly Ringwald movies (OMD, Electricty) or singing about waitresses in cocktail bars (the Human League, Being Boiled), but vintage videos from synth punk acts all over the world can be found all over YouTube. posted by jonp72 (29 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Good post. These bands are only really the tip of a deep, deep iceberg when it comes to this type of stuff.

However, I reject the supposition that most synth bands were lame, as implied in the first sentence. In fact, I think majority of them were awesome, there were just a couple of popular groups that were not.
posted by orville sash at 12:12 PM on March 14, 2009

Damn it jonp72, now you've gone and ruined my jazz trance.

Great post, thanks.
posted by vronsky at 12:13 PM on March 14, 2009

At first, I couldn't believe that Billy Synth and the Turnups were actually, really, truly from Harrisburg, PA, my ancestral homeland. They were just too... cool. And then I saw their drummer. Yep. They're from Harrisburg.
posted by The Michael The at 12:25 PM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wow, I'm getting old. Really old.

Also, why the hell is there a guitar in the OMD Electricity video? That never made any sense.
posted by loquacious at 12:30 PM on March 14, 2009

great post! i look forward to going through all these links. suicide "ghost rider" reminds me, in terms of mood or atmosphere, of arthur russel's world of echo.
posted by molecicco at 12:32 PM on March 14, 2009

Susumu Hirasawa of P-Model (a.k.a. Kaku P-Model) has gone on to score various films, among them Paprika, from which these two great songs come: Shizuku no Ippai Kioku (a.k.a. Parade) and Girl in Byakkoya.
posted by Kattullus at 12:41 PM on March 14, 2009


Actually that video is part of a collection of 3 Technopop bands: P-MODEL, Hikashu, and Plastics. Here it is!

Hikashu performs "At the end of the 20th century" and Plastics perform "Copy". All the performances rock.
posted by SansPoint at 12:45 PM on March 14, 2009

Hell yes, Suicide. I still rock the hell out of them on the constant.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:47 PM on March 14, 2009

You know, they're right. Herbie Hancock is the only guy who can look cool playing the keytar.
posted by spiderskull at 12:48 PM on March 14, 2009

Jesus, you've gone and left out just about everyone on Wax Trax records.
posted by mark242 at 12:50 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I saw some all synth hardcore band from florida but for the life of me I can't remember their name, at the time I was baffled, but they had the sound just not the guitars.
posted by Max Power at 1:03 PM on March 14, 2009

I saw The Producers at Club Foot at the height of their "fame," in -- what? 83? 84? and their keytar player carried it off pretty well. And how about that big hair on the girl playing Sheila in the video? hottttt.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:06 PM on March 14, 2009

That Catholic Discipline song is still one of my favorites off of the Decline of Western Civilization soundtrack. And Suicide...oh hells yeah. Cool post!
posted by malocchio at 1:08 PM on March 14, 2009

man, that units stuff is really good. and metal urbain is fucking hardcore insane. thank you for this post!!
posted by molecicco at 1:13 PM on March 14, 2009

Snowy Red
posted by vronsky at 1:40 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tuxedomoon - No tears
posted by vronsky at 1:54 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

OMD's first three albums were phenomenal. Genetic Engineering is a favorite of mine.
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:23 PM on March 14, 2009

@loquacious - Andy McCluskey has a bass guitar in the OMD video because that's what he uses to play the bass line.
posted by timing at 2:25 PM on March 14, 2009

Gawd, I totally dug Gary Numan.

He was short lived in popularity, but you cannot underestimate his influence on 80s New Wave.

Man, I had really bad taste in music.
posted by Xoebe at 3:36 PM on March 14, 2009

As much as I found his music interesting, I was always quite fond of Frank Tovey's (Fad Gadget) voice.
posted by juiceCake at 4:48 PM on March 14, 2009

I thank jonp72 for introducing me to Suicide -- I'd never heard of them before, and wow, they really did have a lot of influence on a lot of folks I've always enjoyed. Compared to the music, however, the videos are (to me, at least) far from timeless. OMD still holds up well for me (I agree that Genetic Engineering is a great song), but ouch, that video! I was really pleased to see that suicide's albums are available for cheap on emusic. Thanks, jonp72!
posted by dylanjames at 5:14 PM on March 14, 2009

AHHHH!!! Curse my slow slow internet!

anyway, thanks for the post. I'll be able to watch them in about an hour, after they load...
posted by noriyori at 6:03 PM on March 14, 2009

SUICIDE are so awesome BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN covered "Dream Baby Dream" at live gigs.

BLAST FIRST PETITE recently pressed it on 10" wax with a band called BEAT THE DEVIL doing "Mr. Ray" on the flipside. Should be able to find mp3 pretty easily.

Spacemen 3 perform a tribute to Suicide called - appropriately - "Suicide" on their "Playing with Fire" album. There's a studio version and a live version. They both fucking smoke.

As for the Screamers, the Target video DVD is just fantastic... good luck finding copies of their bootleg CDs.

I'd also like to add

CHROME used keyboards sometimes...



I can understand that you're leaving out the explosion of the aggro disco scene of the mid-to-late eighties on purpose. Nitzer Ebb, Age of Chance (on second thought maybe they don't have keyboards...), Renegade Soundwave, Front 242, Greater Than One, Foetus all that Wax Trax records Nettwerk records Play It Again Sam records yadda yadda yadda but consider this: people who are 21 now were not BORN when those records came out. Jeez.

Anyway it's my post reply so I'm going to push 90's Sub Pop noise rock superstars Six Finger Satellite, the best keytar band ever. EVER.
posted by Hammond Rye at 9:07 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by Hammond Rye at 9:08 PM on March 14, 2009

Andy McCluskey has a bass guitar in the OMD video because that's what he uses to play the bass line.

Oh, duh, I'm a dork. That is a bass. I think between the flashback of seeing that video for the first time since I was *mumble* and the bad audio sync overloaded me.
posted by loquacious at 9:15 PM on March 14, 2009

Yeah, the anti-synthesizer vibe of this post is rather offputting. Synths have nothing to apologize for.
posted by dydecker at 9:25 PM on March 14, 2009

A new release by The Units will appear soon. First time The Units will be on CD.

RIP Ramsey.
posted by eccnineten at 8:19 AM on March 15, 2009

Devils Rancher: Thanks for posting that link to the Producers video! Ah, such good memories. Takes me right back to the days of big hair and skinny ties, in the early years of MTV. I used to watch for hours in the hopes that they'd play What's He Got? which was my favorite song of theirs...and I still love it after all these years. Look at Wayne Famous on the keyboards with his enthusiastic dance - I don't think I've ever seen a keyboardist move like that!
posted by velvet winter at 11:45 AM on March 15, 2009

@TrialByMedia, I'd go so far as to say the first four - 'Genetic Engineering' is on the fourth, 'Dazzle Ships' (the weirdest, and my favourite).
The first was self-titled, the second was called 'Organisation', and the third 'Architecture and Morality'.
Then Andy McCluskey gave the world Atomic Kitten. Yeah, thanks Andy.
posted by etc at 11:20 PM on March 15, 2009

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