Andy Blunda is a product of the 80’s. This comes as a surprise considering his past body of work. Stints with 90’s pop rock kids Fastball and the now defunct Paloalto, who helped usher in this recent bellowing wave of indie rock, help solidify Blunda as a diehard 90’s rock flavor kind of guy.
But he has stepped into the solo realm with an enchanting and whimsical double whammy of two EP’s. The latest is ‘Messages.’ At five tracks across 20 minutes, it has the perfect body mass index.
What instantly captured my attention was the artwork of the EP. A sensational design of stark brilliance, a small falling man delicately placed right atop the main background. The art offers this vivid descension of a man falling beautifully, and the EP itself reflects this sort of floating and falling feeling. It appears most gracefully in the guitar work. It bobs along uniformly, moving up and down and remaining consistent as Blunda chants coherently over the R.E.M. Murmur era inspired synthpop riff.
The most calming track here, Devil Inside, has Blunda cooing loudly over a lead hook that seems created right out of the U2 playbook. Not that this is a bad thing. Blunda plays this card with the utmost sincerity and total control. The songs sound grounded in their own size and scale. A less talented musician would take them to the largest heights and leave listeners looking aghast, and a bit frustrated, from the humble lowness of the ground. Pop bands have a tendency to be larger than life to the point of overt and deliberate alienation.
You feel none of this while listening to ‘Messages.’ The opening track, “A Broken Case,’ is shockingly approachable for what is pitched as a big synth-driven record. The second half of the title track, ‘Messages,’ has this gorgeous little synth pseudo-guitar lick that is captured right out of the Cure or New Order. Mild accents sound like a flowing river, and the songs seem to go down like fine wine.
Some of the best hits from the 80’s synthpop and new wave moments sound a bit dated. They will also always be a figment of that particular era. Contrarily, modern new wave bands seem to be in competition to see who can be the most outrageous in scale. Contemporary synthpop leaders, Chvrches, for example, are bonafide pop writers, but you just want to tell them to relax for a minute. Does everything have to be so grandiose?
Blunda channels a much more introspective and chilling angle of classic as well as contemporary sythnpop. The songs seem more related to Moby than Depeche Mode, and each one resonates excellently with provocative lyrics and a soothing vocal performance.
Not everything has to be larger than life. Sometimes subtlety in rock and pop has this irrepressible keenness and awareness that is intoxicating. Andy Blunda may have crafted a career on big 90’s alternative rock, but his strength lies in knowing when to pull back the curtain and offer listeners a nice little stroll through enchantment without also providing a headache that generally comes with the genre. There is only so much ‘Take On Me’ I can take.