Can't Hate The '80s: Three Great Synth Pop Albums That Still Kick Ass!


Pet Shop Boys-Please (1986)


"West End Girls" was the sort of monumental worldwide pop hit from which most bands never recover (think "Tubthumping" or "Relax", simply because it was virtually impossible to top the effortless hookiness and sophisticated pop sheen of the PSB's first single. Those who listened beyond the inescapable radio hit found a treasure trove of material more than capable of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with "West End Girls".



"Two Divided By Zero", "Opportunities", "Love Comes Quickly", and "Suburbia" comprise the remainder of Side One, making it arguably one of the most solid sides of vinyl ever. Yes, EVER! In hindsight, one almost wonders if Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have considered re-issuing the album under the title Greatest Hits.



Ministry-Twitch (1985)

I still remember buying this album the day it came out, rushing home to my trusty stereo, and thinking something was wrong with my vinyl copy of this landmark album. My ears literally could not process what they were hearing, but something compelled me to keep listening and before I knew it, I couldn't stop. Having become a fan of Ministry via the edgy synth pop of 1983's With Sympathy, there was no way to know just how much Al Jourgenson's artistic vision had mutated in the two years between albums.



Of course, in that time, he fired his band, his management, and parted ways with Clive Davis' Arista Records on his way to not only reinventing himself, but also creating his own genre in the process. Oh sure, one can argue that bands like Can and Neu! had laid the foundation for industrial music, but Twitch is the album that stands as the very template by which all other industrial music since adheres to, both in terms of sonics and sheer brutality.

Coming off of the goth-friendly dance hit "Everyday Is Halloween" and a previous mix of "All Day", Twitch is a menacing, pulverizing metallic fist of synth-driven fury that continues to polarize listeners thirty years after its release.



Frankie Goes To Hollywood-Welcome To The Pleasuredome (1984) 

As mentioned above, "Relax" was the sort of monumental hit that hog-tied the band because, let's face it, a song as flat-out brilliant AND successful as that was gonna be impossible to match, much less top, but the entire album from which it came is chock-full of timeless song craft worthy of your ears.



Producer Trevor Horn's track record speaks for itself, having steered Seal, Yes, Buggles, and ABC to the top of the charts, so the moment I saw his name on this album, I knew it would not disappoint. Having said that, this is far from a producer's project, as FGTH came into the sessions with a bevy of great material that Horm shaped into a delectable pop record that did not sacrifice the band's subversive nature/

Thirty years later, "Relax" still packs a punch and those times I hear it that aren't within steps of a dance floor just means the ladies in the 10 Items or Less checkout lane are in for a SHOW! Add "Two Tribes" and the twelve-minute title cut (that only seems like four when you're cutting a rug) to the mix and this is now a party! Of course, what party would be complete without inspired covers of Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run" and Barrence Whitfield's "War!"? Are we naked yet?

Seriously though, let us merely consider this double-album on the strength of "Relax" and "Two Tribes alone. Both, on their own artistic merits, are absolutely inspired protest songs that, sadly, still hold true today. Though some of the faces have changed, the Cold War is back, making the song (and amazing video for it) more timely than ever.







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