What with Vince Clarke living in semi-retirement in rural Maine and New Order suddenly realizing after 30 years that they don't like each other all that much, it's a hard time to be a fan of synthesizer dance pop from the '80s. Until the Presets' second album comes on, that is. The Sydney-based duo of singer Julian Hamilton and synthesist Kim Moyes is straight-ahead old-fashioned electro-pop circa 1984, when the fusion of the Human League and Giorgio Moroder was complete but the cold, hard demands of techno and house hadn't yet asserted themselves outside of Detroit and Chicago. Tracks like first single "My People" and its surging follow-up, "This Boy's in Love," have the characteristic blend of steely synths, thumping electronic beats, and Motown-derived soul-tinged vocals that characterized the predominant strain of mid-'80s synth pop. It's not entirely retro -- "Eucalyptus," the Daft Punk-like "Talk Like That," and the soaring "A New Sky" would sound at home in any mainstream club DJ's set circa 2008 -- but the overall feel of the album from its arrangements to the sci-fi-themed cover art and even the album title (which several artists used for songs back in the day, from the Monochrome Set and Lords of the New Church to the Motels and Mental as Anything) harks back to the day when the Fairlight CMI was the height of musical sophistication and Jellybean Benitez and Arthur Baker were the hottest remixers on the block.
Stewart Mason, Rovi