CD, Wonderland Records, 2007
‘Gay Synthpop’, in the third, non-homophobic sense of the word, is an acquired taste, especially amongst those who enjoy harder electronic music. The earnest nature of the emotional lyrics, the insistent melodies which remain in the head for days to come and the whole accessible and inoffensive qualities of this most commercial of electronic music styles are just too close to the mainstream for some. Personally I like to push my boundaries with synthpop, seeing what the underground purist in me will accept, and just admitting to myself the simple, honest impact of a well written tune.
Sweden is usually recognised as a prime source for fine electronic pop music, possibly second only to Germany and the British bands of the Eighties, and Universal Poplab are operational since 2002 and do not let their countrymen down. The production is flawlessly clean, the singing clear and heartfelt and the melodies memorable and moving. The lyrics strike just the right balance between thoughtfulness and simplicity, the musical arrangements well crafted and imaginative and synth sounds employed are carefully selected and effective. But with much synthpop and personal boundary testing, there are many moments here which are just that bit too commercial for my liking!
Opening number “Soma Generation” and midway track “Vampire In You” are prime examples of how a certain brightness of tone can overstep the limits of my taste for darker music. “I Could Say I’m Sorry” is one of the more upbeat tracks which bear an uncomfortable similarity to more mainstream dance music, with sequences reminiscent of both house and trance, both of which crop up in much synthpop since the 90’s. But these complaints may well be quite unfair and Universal Poplab, as their name suggests, have broad appeal and should be heading straight for the pop charts. If only synthpop was in fashion again!
— Nathan Clemence