The 80s pop-music scene is coupled with quite a “bad rap” from most unintelligible music conversation. However, I tend to disagree. The 80s were an amazing excuse for an entire generation of distorted youth on methamphetamines to dance all day and night. The music made you move from head to toe.
That is why I am not so impressed with most of this neo-80s inspired synth-pop genre emerging from America’s underground.
The latest album from NYC’s Snakes Say Hisss! titled “I’ll Be Lovin’ You,” resonates as the perfect exemplar. Although better than any trash put out by the over-hyped synth-pop cult following, “I’ll Be Lovin’ You” still feels too incomplete – hollow and not very venomous. But in true synthesized fashion, the noise is awfully catchy.
The SSH! duo of Jamie Ayers and Sam Skarstad ironically align quite comfortably on the album. Ayers controls his lo-fi traditionalism to a more contemporary ear. His melodies are thick and sweet like maple syrup – donating what little fullness the songs have to offer while still possessing the isolated percussion section typical of the 1980s. All the while, Skarstad’s feeble guitar beeps and bops in milieu.
One thing I will credit this album for is the vocals. Ayers’ passion for promiscuity and post-pubescent angst couldn’t sound much better through a microphone. The mixing was done perfectly, not to drone out the simplicity of the music itself or mollycoddle the listener with vocals.
The album starts out with what sounds like a Gap ad motioning young adults to buy sandblasted skinny jeans and V-neck sweaters. (Not in reference to Audrey Hepburn who was/is brilliant.) The bass line is overwhelmingly obnoxious, but that is what seems to make it appealing in a rather bizarre way.
The album continues much the same way with maybe a little more angst and emotional attachment in some of the songs. Highlights include “Love is a Heart Attack” and my personal favorite “I Control the Wind.” While most of the album sounds constricted, these are really the only two songs where SSH! unleash an anaconda of ferocity.
While it’s good for what it is and leaps ahead of most music aligned in the same genre, it is still missing a crucial element vital to all “synthians,” and that is the dance factor. While most crucial elements for good pop music are present, such as depression, stimulants and electronics, I feel like Snakes Say Hisss! missed out on some ingredients. I look forward to what the future has in store for this duo from Famous Class Records.
KCSU volunteer Ben Blascoe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org