~reviewed by Kevin Filan
Whatever else you may say about Synthpop, you can't deny that it inspires strong emotions. Love it or loathe it, you'll find that few Goths are neutral on the subject. Your feelings about the genre may well determine how you feel about this offering from Seattle duo Memo.
Memo wears their influences on their sleeves; you could call them "Very New Romantics." William's vocal stylings on songs like "Shades of Gray" and "Away" wouldn't be out of place on a Visage or Japan album, while the melancholy keyboards and soft guitar lines evoke Depeche Mode and vintage New Order. On the up side, this means they are influenced by some great bands: on the down side, it means they are mining the same vein as many other acts.
In the original New Romantic/Synthpop acts, the anhedonic, emotionless vocals added to the general feeling of loss and melancholy. (See Gary Numan for further details). This lesson has been lost on many of today's Synthpop artists. Thankfully, it hasn't been lost on Memo. The wispy, understated vocals in "Quiet Days" and "A Thousand Times" are far more effective than the Hand Stapled to Forehead approach, especially when combined with the bittersweet instrumental accompaniment. They sound neither histrionic nor bored: that alone puts them head and shoulders above most of their brethren in the field.
This is a great Synthpop CD, probably the best I've heard all year. It's not particularly ground-breaking or revolutionary; rather, it's a solid example of the genre at its best. If you like Synthpop, you'll love this band. Even if you don't, you may want to give them a chance. Their music is smooth and tuneful, with more hooks than a tackle box, and the production is excellent. Listen with an open mind, and you may just surprise yourself.
1. Shades of Gray