Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Music: The Buggles

This week's top five: Taraf de Haïdouks, The Buggles, Steeleye Span, Talking Heads, Eurythmics. Quite the unexpected 80s week!

Like everybody and their grandma, I first heard The Buggles through "Video Killed the Radio Star." The Buggles were primarily multiinstrumentalists Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn. A few years ago, I went through a new wave phase and picked up 1980's The Age of Plastic. I wasn't disappointed by what I heard.

Possbily because it was around this time of year that I first heard it, the album has wintry associations for me. Where Devo's futurism came with a campy candy shell and Kraftwerk's was cold, robotic and alien, The Buggles looked on the present with the nostalgic perspective of an unsatisfied future. This is underscored by the seamless blending of traditional and electronic instruments, especially in the doubling of synth parts with female vocals. The Age of Plastic brings this across through its excellent pop production sensibilities that bring to mind both Phil Spector and Mozart.

Aside from the big single, "Elstree" also captures the future-nostalgia and the use of synths to fill in for the voices and timbres of traditional instruments and part-writing.

The synth strings and the harplike arpeggios are status quo for synthpop, but its the "woodwind" synth countermelodies that create The Buggles' signature sound. It's touches like that which should earn the band a reputation greater than that of a novelty song writing one-hit wonder. I've been recommending the album to everyone I think will listen, but it's yet to really spark the same response from anyone. Here's hoping a little more spaghetti on the wall might stick.

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