In the late ’80s, a new hybrid of music began to dominate not only the charts and the airwaves but also the actual dancefloors of many clubs and parties. Combining the edge of New Wave, gloss and sheen of Pop, and high energy of Electronic Dance Music, at the forefront of this Techno-Synthpop were the pioneering New Order (“Blue Monday”) and the then newcomers, like Red Flag (“Russian Radio”), When in Rome (“The Promise”), and Information Society (“What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy)”). And among the lot, the latter proves to be the most enduring, having had a string of successful singles in the ’80s and the ’90s and managed to regain activity and relevance in the late 2000s after a decade’s hiatus.
Formed in 1982, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, Information Society consists currently of Founders Paul Robb (synthesizer, keyboards, percussion), Kurt Harland (vocals, keyboards, percussion), and James Cassidy (bass, vocals). To date, the techno-savvy group has eight studio albums under its belt, including 1988’s successful self-titled debut, 2016’s all-covers Orders of Magnitude, to the latest ODDfellows.
Released on Friday, August 9, 2021, via Negative Gain Records, ODDfellows is a revolutionary and groundbreaking record in terms of production. According to Robb, who also produced it, Information Society’s new offering is the first full-length album to be released with a headphone version that gives the listener a 360° soundscape experience provided by THX Spatial Audio technology.
Oddfellows opens with the slightly Industrial pulse of “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”; and then, after that, transports the listener back to the ’80s heyday of mirrorball parties with the melodically familiar “Would You Like Me If I Played A Guitar”
“World Enough” is an instant favorite, carrying all the necessary ingredients of a New Wave/Synthpop song–catchy and cyclical melodies, dancefloor-worthy beats, and Harland’s silky baritone. The ensuing “Room 1904” then flows flawlessly in the same style; it will fit a playlist that includes a-ha’s “Foot of the Mountain,” Men Without Hats’ “Head above Water,” and New Order’s “Waiting for the Sirens’ Call.” A little bit darker and gloomier, “Nothing Prevails” then puts ODDfellows in the league of Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration (1986) and Camouflage’s Voices & Images (1988).
With the slow Synth ballad “Being Me,” Information Society then turns melodramatic and introspective, after which aptly segueing to “Bennington”–another late-’80s-inspired throwback and homage to that Minneapolis town where members of the band had apparently spent their post-teen years. They then switches the strobe lights back on again with the dancey and fiery “Down in Flames.” Finally, Robb, Harland, and Cassidy wrap up their latest powerhouse with a couple of slow but bright burners–the lyrical-collage “Grups” and the Orchestral Pop-stylized “The Mymble’s Daughter.”
As it was in its youthful beginnings, Information Society is now covering new sonic grounds again. However, despite their contemporarily futuristic approach, the trio’s latest project is not bereft of familiarity, Pop sensibilities, catchy melodies, danceability, and their trademark sound itself. At the end of the spin, ODDfellows remains a typical Information Society record. At least, this time around, fans will no longer have to guess what is in the mind of one of their favorite bands. Pure energy, it still is! Cryptic Rock gives ODDfellows 5 out of 5 stars.
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