Monday, 8 June 2015

Review: Rodney Cromwell - Age of Anxiety

Artist: Rodney Cromwell
Title: Age of Anxiety
Label: Happy Robots

Being a fan of early 80’s electropop, I’m often disappointed with the modern version of the genre which usually touches all the expected reference points, but rarely includes the tunes, or indeed the individual character that still makes you want to go back and listen to the Human League, Soft Cell, Fad Gadget et al. There are exceptions of course, the likes of Chvrches, Hot Chip and La Roux etc. have found their own individual sound/style, and made successful modern synthpop without sounding like tribute or novelty acts, while others like Belbury Poly, The Advisory Circle and Pye Corner Audio have helped create a whole new branch of electronic music which almost completely ignores the 80’s altogether, preferring instead to use 70’s library muzak as an influence.

Age of Anxiety by Rodney Cromwell sits somewhere between these two camps. There’s a definite 80’s influence, though not the obvious Basildon or Sheffield ones that are usually so prevalent. In fact the artist I fist thought of when I listened to second track Cassiopeia was Jona Lewis… A short lived comparison however, as the next track (and obvious single choice… if such a thing even exists anymore), Barry Was An Arms Dealer, with it’s oh-so-catchy melody, and tastefully vocoded lyrics just make you smile and do a little sitting-at-the-computer-dance, which is exactly what I’m doing as I type…. (check out the video below).

In fact melody is the key on this album… Actual tunes are present on every single track. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but it’s real singing-in-the-shower tunes that are so often missing when it comes to modern electropop. Sure there’s usually a decent beat, or a hook, but nothing that stays with you once the track has finished. On a track like Fenchurch Street, the penultimate track on this album, with it’s Barny Sumner vocals and Essex Girl interjections, I can just imagine my postman whistling this as he distributes his daily sack-load of bills and junk-mail.

The final track Black Dog, again without sounding obvious, reminds me of vintage New Order with a bass lead melody which Hooky would be proud of, and despite the subject matter, is bright and optimistic and stays with you long after the fade out.

According to his BandCamp page, Rod makes music on old synths, kids toys and guitars from Argos…. I’m not sure how much truth is in that statement, I’m not even sure that our Rodney is actually who he says he is, but the album is joyous and happy (happy as a robot even), and deserves to be the soundtrack of your summer!

Mat Handley, Doncaster, England

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