Saturday 1 August 2015


As an Electronic Sound subscriber, I heard Rodney Cromwell's superb Barry Was An Arms Dealer in the August edition and fell in love with it straightaway. It's a track that merges the simplicity and pop nous of early synthpop with a modern edge and is amongst one of the finest things I've heard this year. You can listen for yourself below. Having investigated Rodney further I quickly ended up with his album Age Of Anxiety and all its label Happy Robots Records catalogue. It's an outstanding album and one that I can't recommend highly enough for fans of synthpop, electropop or whatever you want to call it.

The brief The Internationale kicks the album off before the early Hot Chip like Cassiopeia lands the first blow on your ears. Waves of soothing synths give way to treated vocals and New Order like bass before the song wraps up, returned to the synths of the start. There are a couple of recurring influences throughout the album to my ears, namely Power Corruption & Lies era New Order and Vince Clarke in his early days with the likes of Depeche Mode's Speak & Spell or Yazoo's Upstairs At Eric's but they don't become overbearing at all. Rodney takes the pure pop of Clarke and mixes it with the harder edge, at least by comparison, of New Order but puts his own stamp on it. The next track is the aforementioned Barry Was An Arms Dealer and that heralds a run of quite outstanding songs.

You Will Struggle takes the synthpop formula the album is quickly perfecting and adds an I Feel Love style bassline to the mix, creating a sublime track. The cousin of Kraftwerk, One Two Seven follows, as good as anything else here and then the New Order go pop of Fax Machine Breakup arrives mixing melodies, melodica and some rather superb lyrics ("I sold some records but not a lot/I won't be floating Happy Robots") to superb effect. At this stage, I found myself enjoying the album more than I'd enjoyed many albums recently as it is just irresistible. Baby Robot comes next, and the titular robot is clearly a fan of New Order's Temptation which is no bad thing and the penultimate The Blue Cloud takes us back to the disco albeit one which is DJ'd by Ralf Hutter and Giorgio Moroder. We then end on the near 7 minute Black Dog  which displays the influences I've perhaps already overdone, but ends the album perfectly.

It's a brave move to release an album that relies on a certain era of synthpop as translating that effectively is difficult and has led to a number of rather useless releases in the recent past. This album though is basically flawless and is one that within which every fan of electronic pop will find something to love. It only seems a matter of time until Rodney's prediction is Fax Machine Breakup is proved wrong. Go and listen to this album right now.

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