Old analog synths are all over this record, making it sound dated the first time you play it, even to someone like me who likes old synth music. Part of the problem here is that electronic music is no longer novelty enough in and of itself to be worthy for it’s own sake. Another is the lack of a discernable presence behind the synths, a human voice. Need I add that I’m speaking metaphorically?
Being an indie-pop duo with a female singer and male studio tech-geek, what Ashby have to contend with is the fact that Everything But the Girl set the keystone for their kind of music. Like a hotel cover band, they make music that is functional but average.
In the accompanying press notes, Pope and Cowie make much of the studio-based nature of their duo, proclaiming almost proudly that they have never played a live gig. Which is fine — some of my best friends, and all that. But you know, even Pet Shop Boys developed some great live shows over the years.
Drummer Bill Cowie puts songs mostly written by vocalist Evelyn Pope into simplistic settings; both also play a number of other instruments as well. This is boom-clap-bash, meaningless but inoffensive electronica, fourth-rate synth pop. It works for a couple of tracks, or the equivalent of both sides of a single. “Trip 66” has a catchy riff played on electric piano (or so it sounds) and “Slip Away” makes the most of the drone of the old synths.
Ashby are one of those bands that rewards less, not more attention. Which is one of the warning labels that what you are listening to is not great art.
Marina Records: http://www.marina.com