I can count on one hand the times that press sheets for albums really nail the feel of the music, and the press sheet for Over the Atlantic’s Junica almost got it right. The press sheet for the guitar and synth duo claims that their debut album is “the Breakfast Club soundtrack for the post-Breakfast Club generation.” In reality, considering that the only true ’80s anthem off of that particular album is Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” I would compare Junica more favorably with the soundtrack to Pretty in Pink, or even its unjustly maligned sister film, Some Kind of Wonderful. Rather than the big Scottish sound of Simple Minds, Over the Atlantic share more of a likeness with Liverpool’s O.M.D., at least in their early years. Then again, maybe the gaffe was intentional, considering that Over the Atlantic is actually from New Zealand (for you among the geographically impaired, that’s nowhere near the Atlantic). Then again, maybe they’re using the word ‘over’ in the teenage definition, like, they’re sooo ‘over the Atlantic.’ Either way, you’ll certainly feel the electricity of Over the Atlantic, and when they’re talking loud and clear, you might even fall so in love with them.
Guitar and synth duos seem to be all the rage these days. Postal Service may not have been the first, but they have certainly opened up the doors a little wider for everyone else, leaving room for Ratatat, and…well, okay maybe it’s not all the rage, but you have to start somewhere, right? Laptopper Bevan Smith, formerly known as Signer, and guitarist Nik Brinkman make up Over the Atlantic, a duo that is sure to hear its share of being the kiwi Postal Service. But whereas Jimmy and Gibby borrowed from the Pet Shop Boys, OTA finds inspiration in Tears for Fears and the aforementioned similarly acronym-laden Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. OTA keeps things simple with lyrics that are more spoken than sung over sometimes-spare notes highlighted by gauzy guitar licks and dizzy atmospheres. Heck, they even name a song “Kevin Shields,” ending the track with an MBV-worthy plodding drums and guitar noise wall. Its lyrics, of course, say what we all want to say to Mr. Shields, “We want you back.” The song is indicative of the duo’s varying influences, as its opening recalls those early ’80s new romantic synth bands, while the chorus dabbles a little in Brian Wilson and TV on the Radio flavored backup vocals, and the closing gets into the previously mentioned MBV and Jesus & Mary Chain territory.
Songs such as “Jess” and “Heart Land” also manage to balance the dual influences nicely, finding the fine line between guitar rock and retro keyboard romanticism. “France,” again possibly finding inspiration from Kevin Shields, concentrates more on the guitar drone than the synth, proving all OTA songs don’t have to sound similar. Of all the songs on Junica, “35 Black and White” sounds most like the Postal Service, simply in its hiccups and laptop-created percussions, but it also sounds the most out of the ’80s, even using the term ‘new romantic’ in the lyrics. “I Cannot Believe” echoes back to the Cure’s middle years, almost as if they were trying to write their own version of “Just Like Heaven.” The dreamy “Fly to the States” closes the album, capturing, ironically, the feel of one of Ben Gibbard’s more dramatic songs from Death Cab rather than from the Postal Service. It would have fit quite nicely onto either The Photo Album or Transatlanticism (and, come to think of it, maybe that was the inspiration for the band’s name!).
The soundtrack from The Breakfast Club has been blown up in people’s hazy memories. The power of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” seemed to obfuscate the rest of that `not-so-stellar’ soundtrack. Half of it was made up of instrumentals, and the rest consisted of songs by bands that were already has-beens and never-weres. Don’t get me wrong, I loved E.G. Daily as Dottie, Pee-Wee Herman’s girlfriend in his debut film, and also as Tommy the main Rugrat and Bubbles, the Powerpuff Girl, but her music career didn’t exactly soar. The only song besides the Simple Minds tune that is at all recognizable, and that’s a stretch, is Wang Chung’s “Fire in the Twilight.” Yeah, now do you remember? Now look at Pretty in Pink—The Psych Furs, New Order, O.M.D., the Smiths and Echo, that’s what I’m talking about. Even closer still is the soundtrack to Some Kind of Wonderful thanks to its inclusion of the Jesus & Mary Chain. So please, when we talk about the ’80s and its soundtracks, especially in comparison to the joyous simplicity of Over the Atlantic, let’s be accurate, shall we?