[12 May 2008]
A lot of modern attempts at synth-pop fly across the PopMatters desk, an awful lot of which is marked by performers who want you to think of them as ironic and cute and oh-so-retro. The truth is, however, that while many of these would-be synth-poppers are a lot of fun, none of what they produce would ever be confused for something that you might hear on pop radio, or what you might have heard on pop radio in the mid-‘80s. Whether a matter of the music being too primitive, or too mechanical, or too hyperkinetic, there’s usually something off-putting about modern synthpop that makes it quite obviously and intentionally a genre for “outsiders”. Ming & Ping, identical twins from Hong Kong, eschew this skewed approach on their latest album Causeway Army in favor of a beautiful, stylish approach to the genre that features songs that actually sound like songs and electronics that weave in and out of the mix with a rare sort of grace. They can be upbeat and aggressive, as on the incredible “Legends of Nothing”, or they can be sad and depressing, as on “Wintersong”. If there’s a complaint to be levelled at Causeway Army, it would be at the vocals which, while always in tune and on key, simply don’t vary in style all that much from song to song. By the end of an hour of them, they start to sound a touch predictable. Even so, finding a synthpop CD with this much polish and straight-up style feels like an utter breath of fresh air.