CD, Boredom Product, 2009
“Auto-Reverse” is a low-priced label compilation with a difference; it features 17 tracks from the French label Boredom Product’s back-catalogue with each covered by a range of artists including their own bands Celluloide, Dekad and Foretaste alongside Komputer, Psyche, People Theatre and The Rorschach Garden amongst others. Most contributors choose to cover Celluloide tracks as they feature most prominently in label’s discography dating back to 2002.
In keeping with Boredom Product’s agenda, “Auto-Reverse” compiles a series of modern electronic covers with a distinct retro feel harking back to the classic 80’s synthpop/new wave sound. This isn’t however an attempt to replicate or resurrect that sound, these tracks draw on that influence but bring it up to date using new technology and mix it with modern electronic sensibilities.
Opening with a dancey synthpop stomp through “Incommunication” from Celluloide’s 2007 album “Passion and Excitements” by the UK’s Komputer, the compilation gets off to an energetic start despite a slightly unsteady vocal. That is followed by the unashamedly catchy Euro synthpop of Sista Mannen Pa Jorden’s take on “Two Fridays a Week” and Dekad’s typical retro-synth rework of “This Aching Kiss”, both from Celluloide’s 2004 album “Words Once Said”. Following a similar path stylistically except with a more modern electro twist and a softer female vocal are Celluloide who cover Dekad’s “Dive” from their 2008 album “Confidential Tears”.
Generally a mix of upbeat dance-oriented tracks, “Auto-Reverse” occasionally takes a more focused approach and produces something a little deeper and adventurous. French band Normograph, for example, tackle Foretaste’s “Discordance” from their 2005 album “Beautiful Creatures” that hints at Soft Cell vocally (particularly during the first half of the track) and 80s new wave synthpop musically mixed with a dash of guitar for good measure. Where it sticks to the typical energetic beat-driven retro-electronic theme Missing in Action’s cover of Celluloide’s “Translation of Love” from 2007’s “Passion and Excitements” album which harks back to a 70’s style Giorgio Moroder driving electro-disco beat with a chanteuse vocal not unlike Grace Jones at times that is all updated for the modern synthpop era. Foretaste’s cover of labelmate Dekad’s “Down Below” from 2008’s “Confidential Tears” album complete with seductive female vocal and their Pet Shop Boys-esque energetic disco electro-pop treatment is a particularly accomplished rework both vocally and musically.
Changing style a little are Neues Kombinat who tackle Celluloide’s 2006 EP “Body Pop” and take modern synthpop sensibilities and mix them with a nonchalant German vocal in typical 80s new wave style. Celluloide’s “I Missed You” from 2004’s “Words Once Said” album is covered by Even More who turn in a solid rework that resembles a European version of Susan Ann Sulley from Human League with a modern synthpop backing. Delivering the shortest track on the album at just under three and half minutes are The Rorschach Garden who take on “Those Things We Felt” from Celluloide’s 2004 album “Words Once Said” turning it in a crisp electronic track with a deliberately paced vocal and a synthpop backing that gradually builds layers as it progresses to deliver an accomplished re-version. Joy Electric’s cover of “People Like Me” from Celluloide’s 2006 EP “Body Pop” is initially slightly shaky vocally but soon finds its stride, in this case working quite well and fitting well with his song choice with its bouncy beat and chirpy melodies. Closing the album is a track from Celluloide’s 2002 album “Naïve Heart” fittingly entitled “It Needed an End” ably covered by File Not Found whose half spoken, half sung vocal fits the song wonderfully along with the edgy, crisp and slightly tense synth backing that draws from the Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls” to close the compilation in style.
On the whole, “Auto-Reverse” is quite an accomplished collection of tracks that follow an innovative concept not seen elsewhere. The idea of producing a label compilation comprised of cover versions is interesting and original with a number of strong tracks being contributed from Normograph, Missing in Action, Foretaste, Even More, The Rorschach Garden, Joy Electric and File Not Found. If modern synthpop with a distinct retro flavour is your thing, you could do a lot worse than check this out.
— Paul Lloyd