I blame Ready Player One or Stranger Things, though it is probably just the cyclical nature of music and the “thirty year rule,” but there has been a real resurgence of 80’s sounds as reference points and inspiration for a whole wave of young bands over the last few years. Not my 80’s, I was generally to be found in a muddy festival field wearing a “Coal Not Dole” t-shirt listening to people with decidedly less fashionable hair cuts make more aggressive music. But neither is the result as crass as the wave of 50-somethings who have formed synth-pop bands to cash in on the cover circuit. No, the bands coming through today are cleverer than any of us ever were and have taken the commercial sound of the mainstream and blended it with the outsider vibe of what I consider the real 80’s. Bands like Siamese Youth for instance.
Some things never age, an addictive vibe and infectious groove, a solid beat, if you have that, you can’t go far wrong. And whilst Siamese Youth certainly tip their hats to a whole number of synth pop pioneers and those who they influenced – from Depeche Mode and New Order to Goldfrapp and Röyksopp – they make music for the here and now. This debut album is a glorious slice of Day-Glo pop and dance floor electronica, warm washes of synth and dramatic and delicious grooves, the perfect mix of clinical machine manipulation and human deftness. And that is perhaps what has changed. Those early synth pioneers, the disenchanted punks who rewired discarded and broken keyboards, bent them to their will and created a whole new musical vision wanted to sound like machines, now we just use the machines to sound like cleverer versions of us.
Right from the intro, the aptly titled 1984, things sound more forward thinking than they do backward glancing. Coco is infectious and groovesome indie-pop, which I have to admit that Aha would have killed for back in the day, which sort of undermines my argument, but tracks like Nariyeh Thanei are all about the here and now, chiming with skittering electronica and pulsing backbeats. Final Straw is a lush cascade of pop-power, electro style, and Yesterday is about as anthemic as a pop gets.
It’s an album that will win a lot of favour. The more mature and discerning music fan will understand the time-machine that they have built here. The more casual music fan, the aficionado of chart music back in the day, love this for the way it reminds them of their formative years. The young pop-picker, unaware of the fine, tight-rope between pop’s past and future potential that the band walk, will just find a collection of great songs. And that, at the end of the day, is all that really matters.