Chapel Club’s second album GOOD TOGETHER retools the sound of their first by replacing the big guitars with heavy use of synthesizers and programming. The thumping drums remain but are now augmented by electronic percussion.
While I thought their debut PALACE an excellent record (wrote about it here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/04/music-round-up-for-2011-so-far.html), the new record’s heavy use of synths and less use of guitar have the effect of pushing the melody to the forefront even more than in their debut. There is a sense of freedom on this record. Songs such as “Sequins” are glittery and over the top with a lot more emotional connection available to the listener that the songs on their first album.
GOOD TOGETHER is just the most recent example of the return of the synthesizer to the forefront of music through the return of 80’s bands like Ultravox, Visage, and The Human League as well as existing guitar bands such as The Editors switching to more electronics. That should be differentiated from all the one man bands popping up these days working in their bedrooms and making music that is totally synthetic.
What was great about the synthpop of the early 1980’s was how human it was. Many of these groups such as Yaz, Heaven 17, and Soft Cell had soulful, passionate lead vocalists that contrasted with synths which were much less chilly than their pioneering predecessors.
Kraftwerk set the instrumental lead but their music while innovative had little or no warmth and no footing in pop. Synthpop by its very definition was pop. What changed also was the interaction between the performer and the synthesizer. It became an instrument just like a guitar or anything else as opposed to a disembodied pre-recorded backing track like The Who used on Baba O’Riley, Won’t Get Fooled Again, and Who are You?
Joy Division and consequently New Order were the first band(s) to comfortably move back and forth between guitar heavy songs and those featuring synths often integrating the two. Chapel Club is just one in a long line of bands to follow suit – a practice that is once again returning to alternative music.