ARTIST: Mannequin Depressives
Like many synthpop outfits, Mannequin Depressives owe a great deal of their inspiration to the classic New Wave and electronic outfits of the '80s. Setting them apart, though, is the breadth of their influences; sure, you'll hear a touch of Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys in their sound, but you'll also hear traces of glam, progressive rock, and even a touch of Sunset Strip sleaze. "Lies" is the kind of retro club fodder that Vince Clark invented and everyone with a keyboard since then has tried to match, but "Last Day" sounds more like The Cure, with vocals blurring over moody pianos and atmospheric guitars. "I Don't Get You" starts off with the clanking mechanical beats and raw bass tone of primitive synthpop, but lead singer Rod C. Dornian departs suddenly from sweet falsetto to cynical sneer, coming off less boyish innocent than cocky rock 'n' roller, a bit like if you equipped early Motley Crue with drum machines and keyboards. The opening synthesizer on "Will to Deceive" is so classic-sounding you'd actually think it predates the '80s; it has that old-fashioned science fiction vibe that you hear on early Tangerine Dream and Vangelis recordings, at least until the arrival of the belching bass synth, which sounds almost exactly like a slowed-down version of Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)." Best capturing Mannequin Depressives' mix of synthpop and rock elements is "Erase It," which laces just a hint of guitar wail over the thumping dance floor beat for an effect not unlike early New Order, complete with bouncing vocal hooks. A remix of the song goes for a more purist synthpop approach, slowing down and manipulating the vocals before building gradually into an extended club version. Finishing the album is "Electronic Tonalities Part 2," a 10-minute ode to electronic experimentation that will feel familiar to fans of Front 242's early instrumentals and proves that there's more to Mannequin Depressives than simple pop hooks. This group is just as inspired by the '80s as any synthpop act ever has been, but instead of latching on to one or two favorite bands, Mannequin Depressives manage to distill the entirety of the decade onto one 70-minute CD that's bound to please anyone who grew up listening to "alternative rock" before it was ever called such a thing.
Check out Mannequin Depressives at www.mannequindepressives.com.
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