Friday, 4 February 2011
Musically, it can be thought of as the decade when music was transformed by technology. Synths bred like rabbits and in some arenas replaced the evergreen guitar completely. Synthesised bass and drums replaced the real things and by the end of the decade, computers were putting in a bid to take over music completely.
Whilst we kicked off with the largely traditional New Wave and the New Romantics, by the end of the 80s music had been reinvented by the onslaught of Rap and Hip-Hop based around the beatbox. In between, bands struggled to adapt to the acceleration in technological change by mutating into electro-pop outfits. Whether you were New Order, Depeche Mode, The Human League or The Pet Shop Boys, you had to embrace the synthesiser, the sequencer, the drum machine and (gasp) the use of backing tapes for live performance. It is a style of music that is finding favour again with today’s young artists and it was against this backdrop that German band Propaganda produced their stunning debut, ‘A Secret Wish’ for one of the coolest record labels of the time, ZTT.
Formed by entrepreneur Jill Sinclair, music journalist, Paul Morley and ultra-trendy producer, Trevor Horn, ZTT was home to Frankie Goes To Hollywood and the Art of Noise, two bands that typified the 1980s as an in-your-face-whilst-backed-by-cutting-edge-tech sort of time. But the real gem in their stable was neither of these two, but a band called Propaganda whose 1985 album; ‘A Secret Wish’ is a shining example of what could go right with the 80s.
In the early 1980s, Propaganda was part of Germany’s arty hardcore industrial music scene and comprised Ralf Dörper (keyboards), Michael Mertens (percussion), Susanne Freytag (spoken vocals) and Claudia Brücken (sung vocals). ZTT invited them to the UK and gave their insistent hardcore rhythms an electro-pop treatment, allowing main vocalist, Claudia Brücken, space to project their strangely beautiful melodies in her unique yet oddly attractive nasal, Teutonic voice. As you would expect, the production is classic Horn/Stephen Lipson larger-than-life fare which, at its best, is quite intoxicating. ‘Duel’, Dr Mabuse and ‘P-Machinery’ are all fabulous slices of 80s overdrive sourced from computer based instruments and given a sheen of musicality by their shimmering melodies.
Firmly rooted in the Me-Me-Me attitude and burgeoning technology of the day, this album could only exist in the 1980s and it is worth a visit back to 1985 to bask in its strange Anglo-Germanic glow.
Even after all this time, Claudia Brücken is still my favourite German – fact.
Here is the fab ‘P-Machinery’ essayed in a completely bonkers German Art School video.