Corporate synth-pop excellence

It’s an odd combination to pull in synth-pop with a self-growth corporate styling, but Office For Personal Development manage to pull it off successfully care of an impressive catalogue of tunes.

The entire OPD concept adopts corporate visuals with the band presenting itself as a goal-orientated start-up – complete with motivational phrases, such as “Never believe the way it is, is how it has to be” and “Maximum efficiency is the gateway to progress, which leads to the path of fulfilment”. Hailing from Bexhill-on-Sea,the three-piece outfit keep the corporate image strong, giving us Trevor Deeble (Director), Del Querns (Head Of IT) and Jenna Love (Goals Liaison Officer). Their debut album Doing.Is.Thinking. showcases this intriguing approach, which has impressed a variety of commentators including Martyn Ware who has issued praise for OPD: “This is great stuff… and you can quote me!” while Chris Hawkins of BBC Radio 6 Music sums them up as “Slightly strange… in a good way!”

Trevor Deeble is something of an enigmatic character with a history as part of banjo and fiddle-wielding South London outfit Indigo Moss in his formative years. Then later forming an acoustic duo with his wife as Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou. OPD’s quirky approach could simply relegate them to one of many novelty acts whose act soon wears thin. However, Doing.Is.Thinking employs sharply-penned tunes combined with observational wit. For instance, the excellent ‘Take Me Back’ is well-executed synth dreampop that manages to swirl around the listener’s ears long after the track has ended.

‘You Are In Control’ treads similar territory; a zippier affair with some on-point lyrical observations (“it takes a lifetime of dedication to achieve even mediocrity”). ‘Love Me Again’ opts for a quirkier approach with its advertising jingle aesthetic. Meanwhile, there’s a harder edge to ‘Best Days Of Our Lives’ which mixes in some acidic lyrical musings (“Thieves are they in cahoots/In shadowed corners plan”) with a strangely optimistic twist.

The squelchy synths and self-affirming mantra on ‘Everything Is Going To Be OK’ reflects the personal growth themes. Then there’s the synth funk of ‘Risk To Benefit’ which keeps things moving nicely with lines like “When you’ve tried and you’ve tried but your life is still a mess” easily resonating, we suspect, with a lot of listeners.

While their synth-pop game is strong, OPD still manage to throw in some surprises, such as the charming ‘Love Me Again’ which opts for a quirkier approach with its advertising jingle aesthetic. Then there’s the synthwave stylings of the heartfelt ‘Born To Be’ which seems to have a deeply personal touch lurking in lines such as “How some fires catch while others they die”.

The album boasts many fine moments, although the synth anthem of ‘Invisible To Me’ is a particular treat. The song’s lyrics are a hymnal reverie on the current cultural and political landscape. There’s something telling about lines like “How do you not fear the future/When history’s being repeated?” being served up via a soaring synth-pop tune.

In a very busy grassroots music scene, it’s always nice to run across a band that manages to stand out (and by some considerable distance) from their retro synth contemporaries. At the same time, Office For Personal Development’s smartly observed lyrics also mean there’s more to this corporate outing than a simple PowerPoint demonstration and motivational posters.

Doing.Is.Thinking is out now

Photo: John Cheves