People have been mentioning this for AGES saying ‘Have you seen Synth Britannia?’ and I was wary since I thought it might be another 80’s nostalgia fest with the usual faces. Not at all – and I was blown away how indepth they went, even visiting my old alma-mater at Psalter Lane (my claim to fame is my first DJ set was in the place Human League & Pulp had their first or second gigs) and also Rochdale, near where a grew up. It’s interesting when I was there 10+ years later electronic music still was in the fore, several people made videos for Warp in the year above me, and I think a few years previous that LFO video was made there – and a lot of Cabs videos were made there back in the day.
Really good interviews with the likes of Daniel Miller, Gary Numan, Richard H Kirk, Dave Ball, Vince Clarke, Depeche Mode, Human League including Martyn Ware (Susan and Joanne always give great interviews!) and loads more.
What I like about this documentary is rather than gloss over the realities in the UK at the time, they talk about that in detail. Such as the press backlash and that it came out of from some really gritty post-industrial/unglamorous areas, and the whole Yuppie Thatcherite thing, for instance. The music press now wouldn’t dare play down the influence of Human League and Kraftwerk and New Order, but back in the day it’s true they hated Depeche Mode and Human League, and these bands mostly had to go abroad to find long lasting success, which is crazy given the fact that all pop today owes a debt to these bands.
People aren’t going to Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce or Girls Aloud and saying ‘well you’re not proper music because you’re not male with a bunch of guitars’ – maybe with very manufactured X-Factor pop, but to be electronic, dance or 80’s synth pop influenced is still very fashionable and very popular – and in a lot of cases critically approved. It’s not the stigma it was to be into electronic synth pop, and indie bands use a lot of the same technology now.
I think these bands have had the last laugh, really.