Saturday, September 6, 2008

Joy Electric - 'The Otherly Opus'

Hailing from sunny California, one man band Ronnie Martin has been turning out synthpop records under Joy Electric for over a decade. His latest, The Otherly Opus, out now on Tooth & Nail Records, is a run of the mill electronic affair.

Album opener “The Otherly Opus” dictates the agenda for the next 33 minutes, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, Joy Electric does haunting synthpop songs well enough. On the negative side, well, there’s just not a lot of variety to be found in a collection of swirling, slow burning pseudo-dance numbers. On this introductory track, Martin keeps his hooks simple (the title is the chorus, repeated ad nauseum), and his beats are just as basic (4/4, bass on 1 and 3, snare on 2 and 4).

“Frivolity and Its Necessities” continues in the same vein, as do the eight tracks that follow it. But there’s something deceptively simple about them. These songs are legitimately haunting, in that their spooky hooks will linger around listeners’ heads for sometime, so much so that the work almost takes on a superior quality in thought over the actual listening process.

Sometimes the catchiness is due to saturation. The “whoas” on “The Ushering In of a Magical Era” are a tad excessive. The incessant repetition of the word “memory” in “The Memory of Alpha” is inane. But some tracks are touching, like the wistful “Write Your Last Paragraph,” have a gothic pop sensibility about them that will slowly bring listeners in. It’s not as a catchy or fun as, say, The Cure, but the interest is still there.

What would be great to hear from Joy Electric would be more songs like track seven, the brilliant rave-up “Red Will Dye These Snows of Silver.” Listeners who are willing to forgive this song’s lame title will find themselves enjoying some quality synthpop that’s equally heavy on both parts. Granted, the track repeats the album’s mistake of having just about every gosh darn song chant its title early on, but it’s still a fun track. Same goes for “(The Timbre) of the Timber Colony.”

The boon and bane of The Otherly Opus is that it goes by too smoothly. It does not challenge the listener, nor does it provide him and/or her with a whole lot to consider. It’s catchy, but not memorable. Listeners will remember the hooks, sure, but not the lyrics. Joy Electric has mastered the “otherly” quality of these songs, but the “opus” part is far from magnum.

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