Last year Joel Ford of Tigercity and Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never emerged under the moniker Games with an EP that was a little more ’80s-indebted than some were prepared for. Games’ tacky pop might have been hard to stomach for anyone expecting something resembling the esoteric drones of Oneohtrix Point Never. After some legal trouble with regard to their name, the duo has returned as Ford and Lopatin with their first full-length, an album that doesn’t stray far from the cheesy ’80s production featured on their first EP.
Ford and Lopatin wear their curious influences squarely on their sleeves in a post-ironic fashion. The bouncing, programmed beats and synth intro of “Emergency Room” could have been culled straight from an Oingo Boingo record, a reference point that’s not exactly prevalent these days. The song is brimming with melody and as a result, is a rousing success. That track is quickly followed by the Eno-esque instrumental “Rock Center Paranoia,” another of Channel Pressure‘s highlights. The album is laden with instrumental segues, but whereas many of these tracks seem purposeless, content to float aimlessly, this brief moment is strikingly impassioned. In contrast, the instrumental “Dead Jammer” sounds like the hidden track from Urban Hymns pointlessly reassembled, sans the crying infant.
Ford and Lopatin have made it abundantly clear they aren’t the most self-serious group around, but that’s not to say they don’t approach their craft with precision. Much of the lyrical content is completely absurd; see the chorus from “Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me)” wherein the lines “You say I’m crazy/ Making sure these cuts are right” are repeated like they actually signify something meaningful. But amidst the nonsense is a well crafted homage to ’80s synth pop wherein a beat reminiscent of “Blue Monday” and Purple Rain synths are positioned with care. Unfortunately, for every track as good as “Emergency Room” and “Too Much MIDI,” there’s a “Joey Rogers” which is pure ’80s schmaltz. Although the song is no doubt performed with a wink and a nod, it still comes off like an unnecessary Spandau Ballet retread. “Surrender” however, actually pulls off an update of Tears for Fears and “World of Regret”‘s sing along refrain and clattering samples is awfully fun. The album may be a bit hit or miss, but the hits are pretty captivating.
Between glo-fi and the Sincerely Yours roster, ’80s nostalgia has been brewing in the indie world for quite some time now. With Destroyer’s latest as well as “Beth/Rest,” the closer on Bon Iver’s new self-titled album, 2011 might just be the year some of the less fashionable elements of ’80s music are updated and brought back into the light. Ford and Lopatin may not be nearly as sincere as those artists but the sentiment is there nonetheless. And for those not necessarily sold on redeeming these outmoded values, Channel Pressure may just be further evidence that if Neon Indian dresses his nostalgia trip up with higher production values, his allure might vanish as quickly as the tape hiss. But for those less cynical, there are certainly charms to behold here, you just have to sift a bit to find them.
Royksopp – Senior
Destroyer – Kaputt
Oingo Boingo – Dead Man’s Party