Memories of an Echo
The memories that echo in Alfred John’s music ride a DeLorean time machine back to the ’80s, mainly the futuristic disco-throb of New Order and its peers. For an electronic exercise, John’s album is decidedly retro, a flashback to when pale-skinned suburban teens danced with tears in their eyes during the Reagan decade. The ghosts of that ’80s past are all here: sad-sack lyrics that pour the rain-soaked emotions of high-school heartache; brittle, chiming guitars; and, perhaps most importantly, layers of ice-cold keyboards. In the opening track, “For Paula,” John follows the post-punk blueprint with religious loyalty as chilly electronics kick the song into gear after its slow, cinematic intro and John’s moody, British-styled vocals haunt the air. By the second song, “In Your Way,” John has truly found his groove, pedaling faster as he accelerates into a pulsating New Order-fueled rhythm. “Summer Nights” has a deceptive title; the tune hardly captures the sunny glaze that it suggests, instead opting for Joy Division’s sense of isolation.
But John isn’t predictable in his open devotion to the ’80s synth-pop aesthetic. “Your Reasons” envelops itself in the ethereal rapture of the Cocteau Twins’ shimmering light. It also recalls the Chameleons’ layers of psychedelic atmospherics. John’s voice is shoved in the front of the mix, allowing his melancholic croon to spend time in the spotlight instead of shyly hiding in the abyss. “The Torch” is one of the finest tracks on the CD, introduced by jagged riffs reminiscent of The Swans’ cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” On “My Once Upon a Time,” John looks to the throaty bass line of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” for inspiration, a surprising and actually riveting choice.
For those whose yellowing yearbooks are scribbled with lyrics from the Cure, the Smiths, and Depeche Mode, John’s music is an affectionate and appropriately cold trip back home.
Alfred John Music: www.alfredjohnmusic.com