The Electricity Club is a website dedicated to synthpop and electronic music, featuring news, reviews, and interviews. Some of the synthpop legends they’ve interviewed recently include Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Rusty Egan, Martyn Ware, Howard Jones, and Glenn Gregory. They also champion some of the finest up-and-coming synth groups, with features on bands like Villa Nah, Mirrors, and Parralox. The man behind the site is Chi Ming Lai. I asked Chi what his ten favourite songs were: here’s his list!
I had various singles but this was the first one I bought on release after hearing it on the radio. Everyone else was trying to figure out what it was about but I felt really clever because I knew it was about Hiroshima. I did my O Level English Language Presentation exam on the lyrics: I got a grade B!
2. Atmosphere – Joy Division
I wasn’t aware of Joy Division until Ian Curtis passed away. This song captures everything I love about music: it’s chilling and emotive, but at the same time very melodic and dynamic. Joy Division aren’t a band I play very often now but this is one of the few in their canon I can listen to regularly.
3. Fade To Grey – Visage
Beautifully European, no rotten blues scales here. This is a prime example of how the success of one artist (i.e. Gary Numan) can be the catalyst for other musicians – in this case Billy Currie and Chris Payne who wrote the backing track during soundchecks on the 1979 Pleasure Principle tour before Midge Ure added the melody line. What they produced was something truly special.
4. Quiet Life – Japan
I remember seeing Japan on Top Of The Pops with this and it grabbing me straight away. David Sylvian was our generation’s Bryan Ferry, stylish and slightly pretentious but with enough working class roots for one to realistically aspire to. So yes, I did base some of my dress sense on him!
5. Starman – David Bowie
It was going to be either this or Sound & Vision, they were both on ChangesTwo, the first Bowie album I ever bought. But I chose Starman because it’s actually a song. This has everything: great verses, a brilliant hook in the chorus and catchy “lah-la-la-la-la” refrain in the coda which just makes you want to join in.
6. Perfect Day – Lou Reed
I heard Heaven 17’s cover version first but I thought the song was so good, I had to check the original out which I thought was even better. It wasn’t until I saw the film Trainspotting years later that I realised (like Iggy Pop/David Bowie’s China Girl) that it was actually about drug dependency.
7. Getting Away With It – Electronic
This song actually allowed me to come out as a Smiths fan because I was staunchly anti-guitar at school and college. I didn’t get why the songs of Morrissey/Marr connected with me until Johnny Marr teamed up with Bernard Sumner and Neil Tennant for this collaboration. I passed my driving test the day I got the 12 inch!
8. Lovely Head – Goldfrapp
The only 21st Century song in my list, I was despairing that I would ever find another record that I thought was so amazing that I would force other people to listen to it. This is John Barry meets Ennio Morricone, that screaming synth treated vocal after the verses make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!
9. Say Hello Wave Goodbye – Soft Cell
I guess if Scott Walker or Jacques Brel did a synth ballad it would sound something like this. This is such great storytelling by Marc Almond and the rousing chorus just pulls the heartstrings. The line “we’re strangers meeting for the first time, OK?” in the middle eight is just one of those great pop moments.
10. Take My Breath Away – Berlin
Berlin sounded like Ultravox fronted by Heart so I guess this is a bit of an AOR guilty pleasure! The synthetic fretless bassline is the song and that corny key change brings out the romantic in me… this would be my wedding song if I ever did such a thing!
- My Top 10 — The Electricity Club, featuring all 10 of Chi’s chosen tracks!