Man, I don’t know how the hell Seattle’s Georgetown Records keeps coming up with all these amazing early 1980s European albums in their New Arrivals section. It’s a good thing the shop is a bit of a drive from my house, because otherwise I’d have to have my paycheck sent directly to them. Holly and I popped down to the neighborhood for lunch the other day so I asked her if I could swing into the store and only look at the New Arrival sections, which is only about three boxes in size. And I walked out of there with a half dozen records, all crazy Euro-synth-goodness.
The French version of Wikipedia describes Algorhthmes as having “marked a generation” of French music fans, which is a pretty bold statement. Originally released in 1980, I have the 2014 re-release, which apparently was limited to 1,000 copies. There seems to be a strong resurgence in this type of early 80s synthwave in recent years, with a ton of high quality represses providing contemporary fans the opportunity to check out these lost gems. Thank god there are labels putting this stuff out, because it’s fantastic.
Algorhthmes is a bit of a trip. In general it’s that early version of European new wave, when it had funky bass, plenty of synths, and a bit of a punk edge to the vocals, before it all became homogenized and all Flock of Seagulls-ish. There’s an undercurrent of experimentalism here too, like on “L’Homme-Pierre,” the vocals of which reminded Holly of “a Pink Floyd song sung through a bullhorn pointed at a tin can”. (♠) “Hang On To Yourself,” written by David Bowie and originally appearing on The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, is the most punk rock song on the album, though more in a rockabilly way, and it’s tight as hell.
There’s an earnestness and focus on Algorhthmes that is refreshing. Charles De Goal isn’t just going through the motions; he’s putting something out that is, for lack of a better term, anti-popular. And sometimes that’s exactly what the music world (or just your own musical brain) needs to shake it up bit. This will definitely be getting future spins.
(♠) Which was actually fairly accurate.