The first time I wrote about Digital Leather was back in 2013 (wait – how is it even possible I’ve been doing Life in the Vinyl Lane this long??) when I spun their 2006 release Monologue. I don’t know that I’ve spun it since, but in reading that post today as I listen to Pink Thunder I’m struck with a sense of what a difference a decade or so makes, both in terms of Digital Leather’s music and my ability to appreciate it.
Pink Thunder is a blend of dark-yet-poppy synths overlaid with shoegazey vocals, offering a contrast between pop and gloom and conveying that sense of someone trying to give the outward appearance of happiness (the music, the title, and the bright pink vinyl) but who inwardly is filled with melancholy (the vocals). My favorite track is the instrumental “One To One”, perhaps because the lack of vocals leaves it generally upbeat. On the the move downtrodden side I’d recommend “Icy Gray” and “Total Doom” with its triumphant synth refrain.
You can listen to Pink Thunder and buy it on vinyl on the FDH Records Bandcamp page HERE.
My dog may hate this record.
It’s tough to be sure, because he’s generally ambivalent about music. I can crank Skálmöld to 11 or put on some funky Miles Davis and he won’t even so much as flinch… with the notable exception of Devo’s “Working in a Coal Mine” which is guaranteed to leave him confused and twitchy with his ears perked all the way up. But tonight when we played Monologue for the first time he was 80 pounds of crazy, crashing into my wife and screwing up her nail polish and then shortly thereafter kicking a table and spilling coffee.
“You know, the one problem with this is the vocals. The music is good.”
I don’t think I’d go as far as Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane’s above comment, but I kind of get it. This is seriously unproduced. I’ve seen Digital Leather described as “synth punk”, but I’d call them lo-fi new wave. Is there a difference? No. But that may give you an idea of what’s going on here. My first take was that they reminded me of an even more lo-fi version of Warsaw, and I guess I sort of got some validation when I looked them up on Allmusic and of the six most comparable bands, two were Joy Division and New Order… the two bands that evolved out of Warsaw. Others were Suicide and the aforementioned Devo… coincidence? You be the judge.
Anyway… the first few songs had me a bit on edge, but by the third song of side A, “Physical Man,” I was getting into the groove, and by the time the last song on the side rolled around, “Fantasy Boys,” I was sold. Released in 2006, Monologue sounds like something a tormented soul recorded alone in their bedroom, and that may not be terribly far from the case. Regardless, it’s some good lo-fi synth post-punk new wave business, though not for the faint at hear. It doesn’t look like this album is on iTunes, but some of their more recent (and more produced) stuff is, so if you’re intrigued you should definitely give it a try.