Sunday, October 25, 2015

EARPHONES-This Is Pop? (2004)


ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: October 25, 2015

Good question; depends on how you look at it.....or should I say listen to it? A bit of trekking back into the realm of Italo-disco saw me getting acquainted with one of the more unusual electronic/synthpop groups I've heard in recent days: EARPHONES. And I suppose even their name is unusual, too, but I like it; when I think about it, EARPHONES actually makes sense for anybody's music that's good enough to be heard with whatever audio-receiving devices you can plug up. Back to the bigger question: it's no question that the combined mixture of disco sounds of the 70's and the pop sound of the 80's inspired this eclectic sound that I enjoyed on this album, but I wondered further if this EARPHONES crew was specifically inspired by DEPECHE MODE? The most glaring indication comes with their direct cover of DEPECHE MODE's "Lie To Me", a very memorable favorite of mine from that fabulous "Some Great Reward" album from 1984. Soooooooooo cool hearing this reinvented EARPHONES version in a contemporary trance format with an excellent dance-groovy bass line to boot, and it's already found a place on my 'Energy Mix' playlist! The vocals are quite DEPECHE MODE-esque, too—that dramatic yet detached, monotonic intensity that gave the 1984 original it's dark, disturbing mood is totally felt in the delivery of EARPHONES' lead singer as well. Other indicators of the DEPECHE MODE influence—vocally, lyrically and/or production-wise—are scattered throughout this album. They include the cut following the 8-bit Nintendo video game-resembling instrumental intro simply called "Birds", which is an instant catch as soon as you hear the beat and the cymbals clashing in sync with the groovy bass line. It's a weird song, too—something about 'all you can look at is birds?' is the line that carries the main hook. Then there's "Short Happy Life" and, one that I really like, "Obsession", which thematically sounds exactly like something DEPECHE MODE would've recorded, the question 'how far will I let this obsession go?' seeming to haunt the songwriter's mind. Somehow, I knew that Track #6's "The Ballard Of A Clochard" wouldn't be arranged like a true ballad, even though these dance albums do often have a way of sneaking in at least one slow number or two. It's very techno-tronic, in fact, with a cool accordion accompaniment that keeps your ears hooked to the music. The song was further an educational lesson for me, being newly introduced to the word 'clochard' meant. After bit of research, I discovered it's a French term to describe a beggar or a vagrant. Never would've guessed, even with my limited understanding of the French language. Now Track #8's "Angel In Me" is a ballad, and here we have yet another song with the word 'angel' in its title that is a real beauty. The light guitar-driven melody is a drastic shift from the disco/techno combo production, but it somehow complements the flow of this album. Things began shifting into a completely different gear altogether by the time I reached the quirky title track. Answering the question to the title, I suppose I would consider the industrial, mechanical techno arrangement 'pop', but maybe in an alternative sense. The chanting of 'this is pop' and and a responsive unified shouting of 'yeah!' looped over and over is primarily this song's main attraction. Even weirder is "Assembly Line" and its bizarre electronic assemblage, especially the melodic beeping that makes me think about those ancient S.O.S. distress calls. Perhaps even more un-pop are the 80's new wave/rock-spirited "Human Being" and " Y.O.Y. (You Own Yourself)". Got a good pair of headphones at your disposal? You'll need them to get in tune with this EARPHONES crew:

1. Happy Birds In Time
2. Birds
3. Primetime / Sexcrime
4. Short Happy Life
5. Obsession
6. The Ballad of A Clochard
7. Lie To Me
8. Angel In Me
9. This Is Pop
10. Human Being
11. No Jesus Preaching
12. Assembly Line
13. Y.O.Y. (You Own Yourself)

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