Archive for Book of Love

In praise (and memory) of the synth riff

Posted in Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2013 by softsynth

Was just listening to Book of Love’s “Enchanted” which came up on the iPhone shuffle and was struck by how cool the riff is. Book of Love were great at the synth riff, and employed it regularly throughout their all-too-short career. Not surprising as they were so brazenly modelled on Depeche Mode, as DM were as of 1985 when BoL made their debut. The Mode were champions of the synth riff. Think of the moments – “Just Can’t Get Enough” (or for that matter, every single song from Speak & Spell), “Get the Balance Right”, “Everything Counts”, “Master and Servant”, “People are People”, “Shake the Disease”, and many many more – some classics, most pretty special in their own way, and that just in the band’s first five years.

They were far from alone, think of the defining sounds of early synth pop from the golden era – O.M.D.’s “Enola Gay”, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, aha’s “Take On Me”, Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance”, Gary Numan’s “Cars”, Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”, Yazoo’s “Don’t Go”…or “Situation”…or “Nobody’s Diary”…or you know, just any song from Yazoo. The list is far too long to write. One can reflect back to some of the finest moments of the genre and the riff was dominant. Some were particularly good at it – New Order did ’em great, few were better at it than Vince Clarke, Numan was terrific at it and of course Kraftwerk pioneered the trick. It was the stuff of iconic music moments.  Continue reading

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The holiday playlist

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2012 by softsynth

So it’s December and all that and while Softsynth may seem the cynic, he still appreciates the holiday season. In fact now that the Month of Ho is upon us the Softsynth Holiday Playlist has been added to the iPod and is in full play mode. This year’s playlist will be familiar to those who have followed this blog lo these last few years, and as always, if you know of something that should be here that isn’t (yet) shout ‘er out! Continue reading

Electronic xmas tunes ’11

Posted in Observations with tags , , , , , , on December 22, 2011 by softsynth

Every year we troll about for new electronic holiday music. Perhaps it’s in reaction to the ubiquitousness of the xmas music we hear from radio stations, malls, co-workers computers…in the sea of the same holiday fare those in the electronic community sometimes want a little something to listen to, to get our spirit on without having to hear Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” or even our loved but done to death “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, let alone the older classics. Continue reading

Electronic music for the holidays, 2010 edition

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by softsynth

Tis the season and all that. Each year Softsynth, like so many, starts to slowly get into the holiday spirit and accordingly, we get the hankering for a little seasonal music. Last year we saw a few holiday-related songs get added to the pile, like Pet Shop Boys merely okay “It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas”, Tori Amos’ lovely seasonal album, Midwinter Graces, Liquid 360’s “Change Has Come (For Christmas)”, Rush Coil’s kind of neat 8-bit holiday album, 8-Bit Christmas and thanks to reader Michael we got our hands on a copy of the late, lamented Book of Love’s weird, and thoroughly enjoyable take on “We Three Kings”. This year we’re very much enjoying The Golden Filter’s fantastic “White Nights”, a Psychic TV cover that’s made for a lovely holiday tune (and available for free download at their web site). There’s also Hurts’ brand new seasonally-cheesy but still kind of nice “All I Want For Christmas Is New Years Day” and we’re very excited to hear Saint Etienne’s new Christmas album, A Glimpse Of Stocking. But other than the above, a handful of songs helpfully suggested by our readers last year, and stand-bys like Venus Hum’s always great Switched on Christmas, the “old faithful”, Electric Fantastic Xmas (a must-own for electronic fans), and of course Erasure’s Crackers International and Crackers International Part II, and not a whole lot more from our genre. The self-serious electronic community rarely deign to throw out holiday-themed songs – once a fan club staple for many bands in days gone by – as it is often seen to compromise the cred they’ve spent years trying to build.

So our annual holiday lament: if we want to get into the holiday spirit, whatever you celebrate, the only refuge from the traditional standards remain the small handful of tracks spun out from within our genre, and occasional dips into the South Park Christmas album and of course the umpteenth playing of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”…

(Anything else new out there in the way of electronic holiday tunes…?)

Watch: All I Want For Christmas Is New Years Day

Electronic cover versions

Posted in Commentary, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2010 by softsynth

While listening to the new Collide album (which we were pretty hard on in our review, it still stands but some of these tracks have held up better than we would have thought…) Softsynth was struck by the number of songs that seemed like odd matches with a predominantly electronic band (John Lennon?) Got us to thinking about some of the great cover versions given new life by electronic bands over the years (and some of the noble failures. And some of the just plain shitty treatments).

Some of the early great electronic recordings were cover versions, none more notable than Daniel Miller’s 1979/80 Silicon Teens project which was mostly synthpop covers of classic rock songs from the 50s and early 60s.

It didn’t always work (like the too-twee-by-half “Judy in Disguise”) but sometimes, like the fantastic version of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” it made for really refreshing takes on the classics.

Bands like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and The Human League diddled about with covers (Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man”, the “Nightclubbing/Rock n Roll” amalgam, respectively) in the early days of their careers and the likes of Depeche Mode messed about with classics like “The Price of Love” before becoming full-fledged recording artists.

Perhaps the most successful well-known electronic cover was Soft Cell’s monster 1981 hit single, their version of the Northern Soul classic “Tainted Love” (which for decades had the distinction of being the song to log the most weeks on billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart). Continue reading

Bands we miss – Book of Love

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 6, 2009 by softsynth

I never liked the “where are they now?” mantra we hear so often about artists we may hadn’t thought about or heard from in a while. It’s always said with a dollop of condescension and a sneer. That said, I have been listening to a lot of older electronic albums lately and it’s made me realize there are a lot of bands I genuinely miss and wish were still recording. I will post on a few such bands that are top of mind starting with one of my favourite bands of the late 80s, Book of Love.

New York’s Book of Love released four albums between 1985 and 1991, Book of Love, Lullaby, Candy Carol and Lovebubble. Modeled on the Depeche Mode formula (they opened for DM on two tours) of singer + three keyboard players, they were a performance-based, art-school influenced (if sometimes pretentious), and often super-gay electronic pop band that benefited from Ted Ottaviano’s exceptional songwriting skills. They started with a darker hue than they eventually developed, taking a cute gimmick (a sing-songy, playful childlike motif) much much too far until they were a twee caricature of themselves.

But in their day they produced a faithful, straight-ahead electro pop with a purity we rarely see these days. Particularly strong on the Lullaby album with great songs like the AIDS-ode “Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls”, their take on Exorcist theme, “Tubular Bells”, “Bewitched” ode, “Witchcraft”, and “Oranges and Lemons”, they could push out quality electro pop product with ease and were much overlooked in their day which is a shame. Even at the end, with the uneven, and two-cute-by-half Lovebubble album they managed to produce a kick-ass version of Bowie’s “Sound and Vision”, “Enchanted” and the stellar “Salve My Soul”. All the way through (up to and including a best-of collection released a few years ago with two new songs that remind of us what they capable of had they stayed together) they gave good product.

With Ottaviano producing now, and the rest scattered to the winds (messages sent to Ottaviano and band management were not returned), it doesn’t seem likely any kind of reunion is in the offing, and maybe it’s for the best. Maybe a band so much “of” the 80s is best left there along with our memories.

But I miss them still.

(Who do you miss? What bands went away before their time? Add your 2¢…)

Watch: You Make Me Feel So Good (poor quality) –