In a small town, in seventh grade, I fell in love (or the seventh grade version) with a girl named Chandra. She had just transferred in from what seemed like Mars to us townies. While we all liked to think of ourselves as cool, she was the real deal. Compared to her, we were yokels. The things I remember most about Chandra are her hair, which was short on one side and the back, long in the front and other side, hanging over one eye (how utterly cool!) and her taste in music, which, in turn, influenced mine. Chandra introduced me to early Depeche Mode, OMD, Yaz and Erasure, and while that might have been a near-religious experience for me, it was probably more so for Ronnie Martin, otherwise known as Joy Electric.
Ronnie and his brother Jason grew up listening to the same kind of music I did, or at least it sure seems like it. Jason went on to form Starflyer 59, while Ronnie started to create electronic music. The Orange County native has released nine Contemporary Christian synth-pop albums over the past twelve years, and The Ministry of Archers marks the tenth. The album, this time around, has very little to do with making overt statements about faith, but instead has very much to do with tipping one’s cap to the past.
For those who liked DM’s “Get the Balance Right” over “Personal Jesus,” at least in musical content, then Joy Electric is an act you might want to check out. If you liked “Electricity” from OMD over “If You Leave,” once again, try on Joy Electric for size. Consisting of mainly early ’80s style synth, the Tooth & Nail band present their new album in three separate `suites’ consisting of three to four tracks each. Some are traditional `pop’ songs, like the danceable “Quite Quieter than Spiders,” and some are abstract instrumentals. There’s not much really else to say about the album, which is unfortunate.
JE has a loyal fanbase of Christian music devotees, but I think there’s very little chance of appealing to a vast audience, and that has less to do with the limiting `Christian’ tag than it does the fact that the music seems stale. There’s a reason I haven’t listened to a lot of Erasure and OMD lately, and not because they’re bad, but instead because they’re dated. Martin isn’t necessarily doing anything new with the genre, merely aping his predecessors. It smacks to me of the pastor in the movie Saved! who so desperately tries to be cool by talking `street’ to the kids in the high school that he appears foolish. Having to `make the attempt’ to speak to kids `on their level’ is, in a way, talking down to them. One needn’t make an attempt, one must merely do. Oooh! I just paraphrased Yoda! That’s from the early ’80s too (the second one, kids, not the first), so I’m sure JE will understand.
Depeche Mode- Speak & Spell
OMD- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark