Saturday, 17 October 2009


And so the much-anticipated Synth Britannia aired in the UK last night on BBC Four. Here's Neil and Chris in their segment with nothing new to say, unfortunately, but it fits neatly into the documentary as a whole which concentrated on electronic music pioneers.

Overall, the doc scores a B+. There were a few holes, like not enough credit to Soft Cell and missing out completely on how they produced the first ecstasy-influenced dance music. There was too much of OMD and it overplayed their influence on the genre. But there was just the right amount of credence given to synth giants The Human League. This is Phil talking (see what I did there) about their first synthesizer.

Music journo, Simon Reynolds, was the glue which held everything together. His knowledge of the era was acutely observed - how The Human League parts 1 and 2 straddled and defined the non-human first phase and the popular emotion-led second phase. Very clever. Read his info-packed Guardian piece here heralding the documentary. It's also refreshing to see Gary Numan get the credit he deserves for being the first synth act to break through (even though he's a card-carrying Tory!!) and Depeche Mode being held up as the innovators they were, even though the serious music press were so hard on them at the time. I never noticed, really, too immersed in my Smash Hits mag.

With a few exceptions, the synth world of the 80s was a very laddish affair, which is why the women of the genre stood out a mile in this programme. They were also the wittiest. Jo and Susanne on the League being the first UK band to use the Linn drum machine: "The boys got so bleeding excited over this big black box with knobs on". And Alison Moyet describing seeing Depeche Mode around Basildon: "With their fluffy blonde hair they looked like little ducks".

For loads of other clips from the 90 minute doc, go here and here.

Thanks to Stuart for the Fauxlaroid of The Human League above.

A friend of mine emailed me her five thoughts after the programme:
1. Andy McLuskey looked like Anton Du Beke. Twat.
2. Why only one tantalising glimpse of Dave Sylvian? Swoon.
3. Martyn Ware looks like Martin Clunes.
4. GARY NUMAN'S WIG!! Get a lighter colour, mate.
5. Still don't know what a synthesiser is.

And I replied with mine:
1. The young Andy McLuskey looked like a wig on a stick.
2. Thompson Twins? Trite? (Or did they say 'shite'). Tut tut.
3. Phil Oakey looks just the same as he always has. He just looks like he's taken a wig off.
4. Gary Numan looks like Parker from the Thunderbirds now.
5. Bernard Sumner BUILT his own synthesiser. And it didn't work, so he obviously doesn't know what a synthesiser is either.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Makes me sick I can't watch this! I'm scouring youtube for more clips...