… A curious thing that comes through watching Synth Britannia is how the futuristic-ness of this music is largely irrecoverable to us, precisely because we live in the future that the synth-pop era helped to bring about. Electronic tonalities are omnipresent to the point of banality, thanks to 90s techno rave and noughties R&B, videogames and ringtones. “Electro” in the early-90s meant cutting-edge, the future-now; nowadays “electro” refers to the kind of sounds that lit up hipster bars in east London through this past decade and then went mainstream this year with La Roux and Lady Gaga, which is to say synthetic pop that doesn’t use the full capacity of the latest digital technology, and is therefore almost as quaint as if it were made using a harpsichord.
With the future-shock aspect depleted, what comes through now is the pop in synth-pop: OMD’s pretty tunes, the aching plaintiveness of Numan and the Human League. Oddly, what’s made this music last are the same things that made the Beatles and Motown immortal: melody and emotion.
BBC FOUR FRIDAY 16th OCTOBER AT 9PM