The Electroclash hype has, at this point, officially eaten New York
City. It was a good idea on paper: a regurgitation of past styles
renewed through a modern worldview. It's a symptom of our culture.
We've done it for at least the whole of the 20th Century. Why not
continue into the 21st? Why, thank you, we will. And this time, we'll
be the '80s. Tweed riding pants on the weekends. Those bicycles with
the big front wheels. And how about the low top hats! And the silky
evening wear! And ankle boots! What?
The '80s: its leather ties, its hair mousse, its New Order, its Echo
and the Bunnymen. Yes, it's all very much back. You know it and you
knew it. And the "Electroclash" movement is a big proponent of its
resurrection. No complaints here: Electroclash is the '80s without
Reaganomics. It's like the '80s, but really, you know, like totally
much better. And still with the synthesizers and angular haircuts.
But a huge problem with any heavily defined music scene is that it
has a foreseeable end, a demise that looms so presently over it that
enjoying it for what it is becomes a trial in itself. And almost
immediately after it introduces itself to the world, 100,001 musical
acts who really want to be doing that too likewise introduce
themselves to the world. And that's why the genre eventually becomes
so hated: oversaturation, overload.
Please Consider Our Time, the debut album from New York
synth-rock duo Shy Child, is a great example of something that really
has nothing to do with a music movement somehow getting lumped into
it. Anything with a synthesizer gets the Electroclash tag these days,
sometimes undeservingly so. Comprising Pete Cafarella (synth/vocals)
and Nate Smith (drums/vocals), Shy Child create bold, gorgeous music
that transports the listener through stark landscapes, all the while
being so comforting with its overwhelmingly natural, seemingly
It must be the vocals, because they're all over the album. Never are
you left with the impression that there's nothing but a bunch of
careless compu-noodling going on in the background, with the two of
them just screwing around on Pro Tools without for once considering
just how you might be feeling about the whole experience. Nope, Shy
Child use technology as a tool for expression and never lose
control of their purpose. Though on first impression the album seems
dominated by Pete Cafarella's synthesizer, it's a good thing, treated
as elegantly as it is here, with such delicate craft and attention to
detail. And all so perfectly paired to Nate Smith's drums: the pair's
equally subtle aggression and tight interplay are a unique
combination, making their music so enjoyable, personable, and
very often dazzling.
At times a stroll, at times a breakneck sprint, the album's nine
songs cover about as much divergent territory as one would expect
from an album with twice the number of songs. And across all these
songs Shy Child are working within a strict vocals/synthesizer/drums
structure. But they do a lot with very little. Prog-ish, rock-ish,
psychedelic, lazy, avant-garde, free-jazzy: the styles are certainly
up for grabs, eluding discussion and, often, description. Cafarella
and Smith are a resourceful team: synth-intoned simple harmonies
("Mercury and Sun," "TV Tunnel"), sweeping anthemic rock ("Prosumer,"
"Great Expectations"), poppy synth experiments ("Ontology of the
Ball"). They're all over the place, and they're not using a lot of
instruments to take you there. They're really that good. The mind
reels on the possibilities of what these two, with so much talent and
imagination, could do together in the future.
When Electroclash has finally gobbled up everything in modern music
and there's nothing left for it to do but pass out in a puddle of
whiskey sours, its no-longer-young belly frowning over its studded
belt, it's to be hoped that Shy Child will still be around.