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Joy Electric - Hello, Mannequin (Cover Artwork)

Joy Electric

Joy Electric: Hello, MannequinHello, Mannequin (2004)
Tooth & Nail Records

Reviewer Rating: 3.5


Contributed by: greg0rbgreg0rb
(others by this writer | submit your own)

How did I not hear of this before? When I was at my most synth-crazed, about four years ago, I purchased a Roland Juno 60 and searched out any bands with synthesizers I could find, trying to emulate their sounds on my new programmable beast. It was at this time I fell in love with The Rentals, Ato.
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How did I not hear of this before? When I was at my most synth-crazed, about four years ago, I purchased a Roland Juno 60 and searched out any bands with synthesizers I could find, trying to emulate their sounds on my new programmable beast. It was at this time I fell in love with The Rentals, Atom and His Package, The Hippos (Heads Will Roll especially, of course) and the wonderful novelty of The Moog Cookbook. But I never discovered Joy Electric, who have apparently been around since 1994.

Like Atom, this is actually just one guy, Ronnie Martin, a Californian formerly of Rainbow Rider and Dance House Children, and currently also in Shepherd. Like Matt Sharp from the Rentals, this guy loves old analog synths. While he doesn't have the famous Moog name synths, he does have some great old equipment: a Roland System 100, a monophonic monster from the late seventies; a Roland CR-78, an analog rhythm machine from 1979 that produces wonderful unrealistic vintage drum sounds; and an RE 201 Space Echo, from 1973, which produces analog echo effects by recording signals on tape and replaying them before being erased. And boy does this guy know how to use his equipment. The guys from Moog Cookbook would definitely tip their space helmets to him, because he coaxes many great sounds from the System 100, blowing amateurs like James Dewees out of the water.

Unlike Atom, Joy Electric is not as light and fun; the music tends to sound more like The Faint, with their darker edge, instantly recognizable in the second track "Disloyalist Party". As for the lyrics, while I've read that they are apparently religious (this is Tooth and Nail, after all) they could really apply to anyone questioning the world and their own life, because it never explicitly mentions god.

The previously mentioned song "Disloyalist Party" would rank among my favorite tracks, perhaps due to it impressing me early on in the album, along with its driving techno beat, haunting synth lines and whispered "ah-ah-ahs". "From Mount Chorus" and "The Singing Arc" would be two other favorites, and they share the element of being upbeat and in a major key. Martin seems to be better at writing major melodies, and those songs stick out. The later also has a killer lead line in the middle, rivaling complicated lines from bands like Adventures of Jet.

I might have become hooked on this band/guy back in the day due to the synths, but my obsession is a little more controlled now so I noticed the downsides of this release. First is the length. The album nears an hour in length, 14 songs that all land around the 4-minute mark, a bit much for songs that keep a similar beat/tempo throughout. Even though Martin is quite good at switching up synths sounds and drum beats track to track, even a synth junkie like myself grew tired of the sound by track 10. If there were perhaps some interaction with other musicians and real instruments it could mix things up enough, but that would ruin the analog purity of the album. Another downside, stemming from the same aspects, is that the songs seem to run together in my mind after listening. This may also be due in part to the melodies, which could be stronger or more memorable.

I was pleasantly surprised by this release. It was also nice to hear a true analog enthusiast working the knobs amidst all the bands exploiting the trendy synth sound these days. While Hello, Mannequin is no perfect album, if you are a fan of any of the above-mentioned bands, you will want to check this out.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (September 29, 2004)

Joy Electric are spiffy. Me and my girlfriend call "The song for all time" "the happy song" because at first we didn't know what the name was and it made us feel really happy for some reason and just makes you smile. Anywho, golly they are super. I like the techno feel and all that jazz, yeah? They are awesome, AYE? I haven't heard the whole album but I wanna get it really bad. Alright, later buddy old pals. I heart Joy Electric and you should heart them too. Toodles Silly Geese.

Anonymous (August 29, 2004)

I think you made some valid points in the review, but there are some things I strongly disagree with-

Joy Electric is one of the most uplifting artists I've heard. It just happens that this particular release is a dark record. Listen to the previous release, The Tick Tock Treasury- that record is as pleasant, enjoyable, and light hearted as they come.

I love the length of this project. You don't have to listen to the entire thing in one sitting, so, in my own opinion, knocking off points becasue the record is too long is not substantial. Better too many tracks than too little.

I adore these melodies. Works of Unknowns is one of the best songs this year. It is sweet, quirky, catchy, yet not annoying or ear-splitting- it flows smoothly and gently, and is memorable in a good way. Same with Birth of the Telegram, The Singing Arc, and A Page of Life.

The record isn't absolutely perfect, though. Like you, I felt that there wasn't enough viccisitude in the songwriting. Ronnie Martin is totally capable of making an entirely analogue- synth -only record, and keep it interesting and changeable (listen to The White Songbook). Hello, Mannequin is just a collection of relatively straightforward pop songs. I think one or two instrumentals and more change ups in the songwriting might have helped keep the songs from 'flowing together'.
Luckily, the songs are all stunning, though.

Anonymous (August 17, 2004)

nice review. if you like this kind of music but feels that it's a bit similar and unimaginative these days... check this out, awesome band from sweden.

http://www.srvice.com/mp3/tta_-_make_it_happen.mp3

and no, i'm not in the band, but i wish i was.

Anonymous (August 16, 2004)

you douche...i just listened to that stuff cause i love the rentals, et al. and that crap is just slow techno with terrible lyrics...

mm dsss mm dsss mm dsss mm dsss

Anonymous (August 16, 2004)

My boyfriend and I like to deep kiss and give each other hand jobs while listening to Joy Electric - the synth's really are awesome he's very talented.

Num104 (August 15, 2004)

Ronnie Martin is one of the most skilled musicians in our day and age. It is amazing what he does with synths. The cool thing is that he does not use any computers, drum machines, or keyboards in making his music (and he makes sure to note that on every album - except his first album Melody). This stuff is fantastic and really speaks volumes for the kind of technical prowess of the artist.

Joy Electric is definately a Christian band although some albums hardly mention God and others are full of references. "Sugar Rush" is most certainly about God. If you look at the rest of the lyrics like "I only want to be with you for all eternity / I only want to know the things you have for me to grow / I only want to be part of your loving family". I think that is pretty obvious for anyone familiar with Christian lingo. Although it is true that songs like this and others are fairly cheesy, that is really part of the appeal.

The track "Song For All Time" on Hello Mannequin is my favorite and has an incredible melody with a really cool riff near the chorus.

Ronnie's brother, Jason, also heads up the band Starflyer 59. They are another incredibely talented (and different) band full of layered guitars and droning shoegazing-esque vocals.

analogboy (August 14, 2004)

I couldn't agree less with your comment about the melodies being stronger. The melodies on this album would melt your spine.

Anchors (August 14, 2004)

Jesus hates synthesizers.

Anonymous (August 13, 2004)

joy electric are good ay

tahoejeff (August 13, 2004)

Well..maybe not that song...but I'm pretty sure their album entitled Christian Songs, with hits such as Children of the lord or Lift Up Your Hearts are christian.

Anonymous (August 13, 2004)

"they definately had christian lyrics....He may have gotten darker..I havent heard him in a long time, but I do remember a line from one of his songs..."I get a sugar rush, thinking of you too much"....bleh!!"

Dude, he is not talking about God. Geez

Anonymous (August 13, 2004)

This dude has the most fucked up videos ever. "Monosynth" could be used to scare little children.

tahoejeff (August 13, 2004)

I think I remember one a couple of songs off old T&N comps, and they were sugar coated techno, and they definately had christian lyrics....He may have gotten darker..I havent heard him in a long time, but I do remember a line from one of his songs..."I get a sugar rush, thinking of you too much"....bleh!!

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