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Thursday, February 11, 2010

When The Machines Rock

Bottom/ Odyssey (EMI, 2005) by electroclash duo and performance troupe Fischerspooner includes guests David Byrne and Mirwais. Spiking extremely retro electropop tendencies (recalling Kraftwerk, early Depeche Mode, and Gary Numan) with a modern approach to programming, Fischerspooner produces a quirky, robotic, and strangely subdued kind of dance music. Middle/ Tubeway Army (1977–1979) was a London-based punk and new wave band led by Gary Numan. It was the first band of the post-punk era to have an electronic hit, with the single "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and its parent album, Replicas (Beggars Banquet), topping the UK Album Charts in mid 1979. Replicas was the first album of what Numan later termed the "machine" phase of his career, preceding The Pleasure Principle and Telekon, a collection linked by common themes of a dystopian science fiction future and transmutation of man/machine, coupled with an androgynous image and ground-breaking synthetic rock sound. Something of a concept album, Replicas was based on a book Numan hoped to complete someday, set in a not-too-distant future metropolis where Machmen (androids with cloned human skin) and other machines keep the general public cowed on orders from the Grey Men (shadowy officials). Whilst the album’s setting and lyrics were directly inspired by the science fiction of Philip K. Dick, particularly his seminal work Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the title was, surprisingly, not. Musically Numan’s chief influences were the as-yet commercially-unsuccessful Ultravox who pioneered the integration of synthesizers with conventional rock instruments; David Bowie’s Low, especially tracks like "Speed of Life" and "Breaking Glass", and general air of disaffection; and Kraftwerk’s The Man-Machine, in particular the long and wistful "Neon Lights". Replicas' fat synthesizer sound and occasionally nihilistic lyrics had a major impact on the industrial acts that came to prominence in the mid-nineties such as Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. Top/ "Genetic Engineering" is a single from Dazzle Ships (Virgin, 1983), the fourth album by English synthpop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (often abbreviated to OMD). The album was the follow-up release to the band's hugely successful Architecture and Morality.

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