Radio Berlin – The Selection Drone

Radio Berlin
The Selection Drone

A musician about my age – in his late-20’s – told me once that Prince’s Purple Rain was the most important album for his and my generation. For a while, musicians have been rejecting the scourge of 80’s music – that synth-driven punk-influenced pop sound that spawned sexual androgyny and breakdancing. Yet, just recently, there seems to be a resurgence of the innovate qualities of 80’s pop mingled with a more modern sensibility. That began to manifest itself through the resurrection of the keyboard in a prominent role in indie rock, and now synth-driven pop music is again making a comeback.

Perhaps the band that most wears their 80’s influences on their collective sleeves is the Nebraska-based band The Faint. Like that project, Radio Berlin’s influences appear seeped in heavy doses of New Order, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, and, yes, even Prince. Radio Berlin would rather comparisons be made to The Cure or Joy Division, and those are apt as well. What’s important to note here, however, is that these songs clearly harken back to a time when new-wave was the rave and yet still manage to sound modern and urgent. Ah, the days of high school dances…

They didn’t play anything like “Change Your Mind” during my high school dances, however. This kind of urgent, angry combination of guitars and sung/spoken vocals sounds a bit too much like early punk and modern hardcore to really fit those dreamy keyboards, but the mix is definitely intriguing. They bring to mind the 80’s goth-rock bands like Modern English on up-beat but eerie songs like “Eyes Like Lenses” and the spacey yet epic-sounding “Electric Halls.” One of the band’s best efforts, “Glass Horizon” is a stellar example of the best new-wave styles and modern punk-influenced rock. More up-beat and danceable, “Kill the Moment” is more along the lines of The Faint, and it also demonstrates the band’s ability to change course in the line of a song, starting off with one style and continuing to a totally different feel. This happens on the mostly instrumental “The Sequence is Over” as well. “Twelve Fingers” takes off on an up-beat keyboard-driven track of pop that breaks down into a nice, gothic-style bass-filled interlude.

It’s important to note that this resurgence in new-wave and synth-driven pop/rock is not necessarily a new thing. The Faint have several albums under their belt, and Radio Berlin have been performing since 1998. There’s also the resurrection of interest in 80’s music in general to help gain more recognition for these types of bands. As someone who can barely stomach the pap on the local pop station turned 80’s revivalist, I’m relieved that these bands have taken the best of that era’s music and made it their own in a modern sensibility. Radio Berlin deserve to be at the forefront of this group. This is a spectacular album, urgent and momentous, but there’s no doubting they listened to a lot of Prince and Cure in their days.