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Music Under the Radar: Synthpop

Stephanie DePrez | Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Situation: Music hunters seek, read, blog and cull music from radio, print and most often, the interwebs. Music gatherers collect mix CDs, free digital downloads, and whatever their friends happen to be listening to. If you are a gatherer, this space is for you. If you are a hunter, e-mail me your latest find, and I promise you’ll find it written up here. (Seriously. E-mail. Even if you’re not a student.)

Hello, darling readers. I have been MIA for the past few weeks, but the music industry has trod on, blindly unaware of my lack of presence. I do hope you will forgive me for getting a bit “Drowsy” last week, instead of keeping my ear to the ground to keep you plugged in.

This week I would like to take a journey back to the days of ‘80s yore, when synthesizers ran freely and those black plastic shades with your dorm’s name on the side were popular — for the first time.  I would like to take us into the ever-renewing world of synth pop.

Depeche Mode

The great granddaddy of all synth bands formed in the U.K. in 1980. With their fully electrified sound, they blew up a genre that had barely existed. Deeply rooted in a darker sound, and perhaps even more “goth” than the yet-to-exist goths, this band has influenced everyone from Linkin Park to Coldplay (who based the video for “Viva La Vida” on Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” video).

Tracks to Tap: “Never Let Me Down,” “Precious,” “Enjoy the Silence,” “Stripped”

Gary Newman

Go look up the song “Cars” right now. Do it. Now, tell me that it isn’t the most awesomely synthesized track you’ve ever heard. Newman is a one-man band that survived failure after failure until he began plugging out hits in the 1980’s. For some wild visuals, YouTube “DieHard Battery vs. Gary Newman” for one of the most inventive commercials you’ll ever see.

Tracks to Tap: “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” “Cars”

The Buggles

Add these guys to the list of great ‘80s artists who have been pillaged by the 21st century. Their beats seem to keep popping up in the background of the latest pop hits coming out of the speakers at the Backer. But their original sound gave us the immortal words “Video Killed the Radio Star” before both members moved on to join the band Yes.

Tracks to Tap: “Video Killed the Radio Star,” “Living in the Plastic Age”

All right, my hunters. I have now a quest for you: this week, send me the wackiest music videos you’ve ever seen. Modern, dated, Peter Gabriel or Gabe Dixon, let me know which music videos are so outrageous that you can’t help but post them on someone’s Facebook wall.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Stephanie DePrez at sdeprez@nd.edu