How do you praise something that is as patently derivative as Kamera’s Resurrection? Pop Resurrection into your CD player and you’ll hear shades of New Order, Information Society, the Cure, Dead or Alive, Depeche Mode, and just about every other band that had a keyboard and an excess of black eyeliner in the ’80s. While it’s true that you don’t necessarily need innovation in order to create great music, can it possibly help matters if the creation process adheres strictly to some template of what serious ’80s synth-pop once was?
Sure, bands like the Killers and Franz Ferdinand have opened up the floodgates for this sort of thing, with their backward looking synth work, dance beats, and frontmen putting on their best big important voices, but choices in production, instrumentation, and lyricism identify the modern retro as distinctly a product of the 2000s. Kamera, on the other hand, wield no such indicators; it is truly retro, in that it legitimately sounds as though it could have come from the era that it is emulating. That by itself is an achievement of sorts, and will test the level of ’80s devotion that those lovers of modern retro-chic are willing to embrace.
Example: “TV Lights” is a highly danceable bit of dark pop music with lots of bell and string synths, a prominent slap bassline, and Joakim Hjelm’s distinctive (as in, he sounds like he might actually be holding his nose the whole time he sings) vocals. This is all well and good, since words like “Shine on / We knock the radio out / Shine on / Know what we’re talking about / Shine on / Make sure the truth won’t come out” are generic enough to not distract from the overall picture, and it gets a decent little groove going over the course of its four-and-a-half minutes.
And then, you realize that it sounds almost as much like Hall & Oates as it does Love & Rockets, and your will is tested.
This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with Hall & Oates, necessarily. It’s more a matter of the fact that the image Kamera is portraying via the use of high-contrast black and white with bright green accents in its album art, on its website, and on its MySpace, is one of the artsy, tortured brand of synthpopper band. While the music does occasionally live up to the standard set by such an image, it’s usually too far on the “pop” side of synthpop to truly satisfy someone looking for the depth and the style of the most lasting products of the ’80s synth explosion.
All of that said, a few of these songs really could have been huge hits, in that they have a knack for earworming their way through your skull and lodging themselves in your brain until you’ve sung them to yourself enough times to be declared legally insane. The devious little back-to-back duo of “Borderline” (not a cover of the Madonna song, sadly) and “Like a Drug” is tuneful, danceable, and repetitive in all the right ways. If you’re not singing “I wanna run down the borderline…with YOUUUUU / Oowooo ooo oooowooo oo oooo” after you’ve heard “Borderline” twice, you may never, ever have a song stuck in your head. Congratulations. “Fragile” is the best club track on the album, practically crying out for glowsticks and big hair, and “I’m Gonna Be Your Lover” is a fantastic little example of treading the obsession/devotion line in art-pop-ballad form.
Songs like those mentioned prove that Kamera has the chops to be a fantastic ’80s throwback band, but most of the rest of Resurrection just isn’t catchy, or danceable, or memorable enough to make an impact. If you really, really miss the ’80s, maybe Kamera is your bag; buy the album, however, and you may just realize you don’t miss the decade quite as much as you thought.