What the hell are rock musicians so happy about these days? Whatever happened to danceable music that makes you feel good about being gloomy? Why aren't more soundtracks for dramatic suicides being produced? Where have all the chorus pedals and synth drums gone?
Fans of Joy Division, the Cure, Gang of Four and Echo and the Bunnymen probably spend days at a time mulling these questions over, and there aren't many clear answers in sight. Luckily for the goth-wave set, Radio Berlin is spearheading a revival of the murkier sounds of the '80s. Since 1998, the Vancouver quartet has been quietly releasing platters of dark, synth-tinged rock that may well have been scrawled with eyeliner pencils on broken shards of mirror. After a year of hiding in their rooms (actually, other projects and a lineup change are to blame), they've come back strong with Glass on Action Driver Records, an LP of dark, angular, punk-funk packed with bleak melodies and an oddly Fixx-like bounce that's as compelling as it is dismal. Think Dismemberment Plan's Emergency & I if it were written and performed by Bauhaus.
For those already familiar with the band, catching them on their current tour will be the perfect opportunity to size up new developments in their sound. Newcomer Lyndsay Sung has added some punch to the mix by taking over bass and keyboard duty, while Chris Frey and Jack Duckworth's vocals have gained power and stability. The result is an increasingly original sound that inspires contemplations of rock's future and its past. Who needs cowbells when you've got octagonal synth drums?