Wednesday, 21 October 2009

This used to be the future

I must recommend pop documentary Synth Britannia, which screened (four times!) on BBC4 over the weekend and is available on iPlayer until 26 October. Not only is it the best programme I've seen on the scene director Ben Whalley tracks loosely from The Human League to the Pet Shop Boys, but it boasts some amazing archive footage of England in the 1970s and '80s. The visuals are beautifully assembled, almost as if remixed with the music.

Talking heads include Daniel Miller, Phil Oakey, Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke (all very good), plus there's some great footage of Shoreditch in the period (and now). John Foxx, who comes across very well, talks about how he moved from Lancashire to find something 'sinister' in this then-decrepit area built on plague pits.

While Whalley focuses on British synth pop's alienated pioneers - individuals who disparately formed a movement - there's less room for their decline, and none for their influence, unfortunately. There is, of course, a lot of Ballard.