A positive reaction to a difficult world
The legendary Blitz Club provided a catalyst for many of the musical talents that were emerging in that odd crossover point between the 1970s and 1980s. Synonymous with the fashionable New Romantic movement, the London-based Blitz was a melting pot of flamboyant characters, charismatic musicians and a definite desire to be both different and exclusive. As Steve Strange revealed when he spoke to The Electricity Club back in 2012: “We knew we had a club on our hands and we were turning a lot of people away; I was known as the strictest door whore in London!”
Although the life of the Blitz was merely a brief blip on the storied musical history of that particular period, its influence certainly made an impact. Subsequently, its iconic status puts it in the same bracket as the likes of Liverpool’s Eric’s and Manchester’s The Factory and Hacienda.
Generation Blitz was dreamed up as a creative concept that pays tribute to that musical history. Compiled by Martin James and Timo Jalkanen with support from Gary Fones, the album has been billed as an effort that is “reclaiming the 1980s from Stranger Things cosplayers, neon obsessives and Miami Vice nostalgics”. A sentiment of brash confidence and swagger that seems perfectly in-step with the Blitz ethos.
In delivery, the collection of music is an ambitious project that brings together a wealth of contemporary talent across 34 tracks. The cast of contributors is certainly impressive with the likes of Nature Of Wires, Parralox, The Rude Awakening, Brutalist Architecture In The Sun, LorD and Master, Blaklight, Tiny Magnetic Pets, Platronic and The Frixion all contributing (in some cases, providing exclusive tracks and mixes).
Generation Blitz could have easily been a simple tribute album, with a choice selection of talents providing their own takes on classic songs of the era. Instead, the album seeks to capture an ephemeral quality that invokes the vibe of the Blitz. The compilation deliberately aims for a diverse mix, which certainly includes homage moments but also a deconstruction of the sounds and styles of the period, classical-inspired synth-pop, minimalist synth punk and outsider post punk.
The result is an engaging mix of electronic music moments that certainly manages to achieve its mission statement. Opener ‘Blitz Kids (Retrofit Remix)’ by Montage Collective does a fine job in setting the scene. A buzzy slice of synth-pop which namechecks the names and acts of the era, it serves as the perfect overture for the album.
‘Hurting For Two’ by Chain Complex (feat. WARTERAUM) is a slick synth number which throws a nod to cold wave. The Frixion delivers a muscular entry with the strident ‘Cry Cry Cry’ and MONOPLAN’s ‘Lyudi Kak Krysy’ bursts with analogue synth goodness (peppered with some John Carpenter-esque moments).
There’s a more playful quality to tracks such as Ditsea Yella’s ‘Roam’ and the narrative-led quirk of ‘jACQUES bREL IS aLIVE aND wELL (jE sUIS aVANT gARDE)’ care of nON sTOP eROTIC cABABRET.
But there’s plenty more sturdy tunes awaiting in this collection, including a sharp and impeccable ‘Strength in Numbers’ care of the ever-reliable LorD and Master. ‘Escalation’ by Scenius has an OMD flavour in its warm synths and there’s a definite synth swagger to Blaklight’s ‘So Gone’.
‘The Masquerade’ via Nature of Wires offers up NoW’s trademark beefy synth foundations, but with a sweeping, majestic element at its heart. Meanwhile, the ethereal ‘Drowning in Indigo’ by Tiny Magnetic Pets provides one of the album’s highlights.
Martin James himself has submitted his own musical contributions under his alter ego of Nostalgia Deathstar. ‘Dead 80s’ provides a brooding paen to a lost era while the busy ‘TCV21’ has an hypnotic electronic groove to it.
Brutalist Architecture in the Sun’s ‘Suitomoton’, has a strangely warm quality (as discussed in the TEC review of BAITS’ album The Sadness Between Cities previously). That warmth is offset by suitably acerbic lyrics (“I’m fading into grey”) that seem in-theme with the Blitz vibe.
Perhaps acknowledging some of the legacy in terms of the tunes that the Blitz would spin up, Diskoteq’s ‘Blood Everywhere’ offers up an effective homage to Kraftwerk. There’s also a superb uplifting cover of the classic ‘Fade To Grey’ coming from Australia’s finest, Parralox.
Platronic contribute a special mix of ‘Maybe Someday’ (a tune which TEC has visited previously). A smoothly conceived synth-pop heart warmer. ‘Maybe Someday’ employs a lush, burbling electronic accompaniment against Kay Burden’s heartfelt vocal delivery (“Maybe we will find a way/If not now maybe someday”).
American expat Andrew Evans’ Birmingham Electric dips into warm synth moods on the smooth ‘Radio Kootwijk’. Pulse Lab’s ‘Tears of a Fool’ has an emotive, bittersweet quality to it. The Rude Awakening also drop by with an evocative mix of their ‘Emerald Dancer’.
There’s also plenty more to enjoy across Generation Blitz’s 34 tracks, including the bold percussive drive of Jigsaw Sequence’s ‘Berlin Girl’. ‘Hello Stranger’ by Xibling has a stark, electro punk aesthetic to it, which suggests shades of The Normal. Also jumping out is ‘Second Time Around’ from Inferior Complex, which boasts a Hooky-style bass pitched against a shimmering bed of synths. Then there’s Wavewulf’s ‘Electric Vienna’, which has a proggy vibe lurking in its instrumental charm.
Generation Blitz is quite a puzzle-box of a compilation. It successfully manages to invoke the spirit of a classic era, but also marries it with a solid selection of contemporary electropop tunes. But the sheer kaleidoscopic nature of the album’s styles and approaches means that there’s unlikely to be a listener who will walk away disappointed.
Generation Blitz is out now.