John Crawford and Robin Simon – Arclight (Album Review)

Two of the most successful and well-loved bands in the heyday of New Wave/Synthpop music in the illustrious 1980s were Berlin and Ultravox. So, what is not to be excited about upon the fact that Berlin founder, principal songwriter, and Bassist John Crawford and Ultravox/Visage Guitarist Robin Simon have joined forces to come up with a collaborative album, the sound of which is an amalgamation of their respective bands’ ’80s sonic styles?

Released on Friday, June 3, 2022, via August Day Recordings, Crawford and Simon’s debut outing is titled Arclight. Complete with ten tracks it proudly opens with “Firedogs,” which certainly sounds like a throwback to Ultravox’s hits of old–synth-drenched, flanged guitars, flickering keyboard melodies – a time-machine trip! Following next is the alluring “There’s Only You,” which, this time, delivers the grace and feminine finesse of Berlin. The midtempo “Like Crimson” then takes the listener to the darker, colder, and more enticing terrain of Synthpop.

Crawford and Simon then turns moody and sentimental, with the brittle punches and gentle pinches of the Synthpop ballads “Slide” and “I Could Stand on My Own.” After the rather experimental, filmic, and Dance-heavy “Vectors” comes “Shifting Sands”–something that will fit onto any playlist that consists of Post-Punk classics like “Cameras in Paris” by The Fixx, “She’s on Fire” by Wire Train, “Care” by Shadows as Tall as Trees, and “In Dim Light” by Darkroom. Then after another slow track titled “Supposing,” the duo finish their beautiful team effort with the Space-themed “The Universe Suddenly Shrinks with One Thought,” with an obvious tribute to Kraftwerk, the founding architects of Synthpop and Electronic music.

In the current angst-dominated Rock and celebrity-driven Pop arenas of the music world at large, enthusiasts both veteran and young need something that is built on the balance between catchiness and intricacy, progression and simplicity. John Crawford and Robin Simon’s Arclight – with songwriting credits from John Bryan, Sare Havlicek, Mark Iannucci, Jaime Rodriguez Navarro, James Grant, and the late Steve Strange of Visage–is an answer to that. It is a celebratory moment of likely but rare union of kindred sonic spirits–forever undulating like summer dreams and ocean waves. Well worth checking out, Cryptic Rock gives Arclight 4 out of 5 stars.

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