"My Personal Kryptonite" (EP, 2011)
Released in two versions, this is available first as a five-track digital download. Then as a seven-track physical CD in a limited edition of 500 (with an exclusive track). My Personal Kryptonite is the second single from Zynic’s infectious debut album Fire Walk With Me and focuses on a song that wasn’t exactly top of my list of cuts from that debut. Nevertheless, its choice as single material is understandable, as in its album form it was undeniably one of the stand-out tracks. With a bit of distance, I’m happy to part any hang-ups or misgivings I had about the potentially cheesy side of a song called My Personal Kryptonite, and anyone already a fan of this one-German project should definitely pick this up in one form or another.
On the seven-track CD release, the vanilla version opens proceedings and is accompanied by four remixes, two by Zynic himself, one by Mesh and one by Rotersand. The Bizarro Extended Mix stretches and embellishes the source taking over six-and-a-half minutes. New song Regrets is a deceptively simple melodic pop song forsaking some of the gimmicky production touches that Zynic sometimes likes to deploy (very well I might add). I don’t know the song’s chronology, but if this was around at the time of the album it would certainly have earned its place on there. If it was created after the album material then the signs are encouraging for possible future developments.
Of the two star name remixes, regular readers will not be surprised to hear the Mesh one doesn’t do much for me. It is distinctly Mesh but they’ve flatted out the tempo and drained the original of much of its irrepressible energy in the process. Also, the Rotersand one is a beat-driven remix that processes the vocals and in doing so places them slightly further back in the mix. It’s serviceable if hardly exciting. It is good to see such attention-grabbing names attached to the release though and if that helps widen the audience for Zynic then that can only be a good thing. The best remix work unquestionably comes courtesy of Zynic himself and the superb Lex Luthor’s Revenge Mix. This wastes no time in setting out its dance floor intentions but does so far more successfully than either of the guest stars do. The best mix here in my view.
Finally, there’s the Campfire Version of another album track Almost Silence. I liked this a lot first time around and I knew instantly what to expect when I saw the title of the remix and, sure enough, this strips the song bare, essentially back to a voice and acoustic guitar. One cannot help but think of Martin Gore and how he often composes the core elements of a Depeche Mode song just on a guitar and then arranges for wider instrumentation. Don’t know if that’s how Zynic works, but what this sincere version does is demonstrate just how robust Zynic’s core composition is that this stands up brilliantly with so few elements. 7/10
Rob Dyer (December 2011)
"Fire Walk With Me" (Album, 2011) !DSO Recommended!
Having perfectly caught one’s attention and whetted one’s appetite with a stand-out debut single in March, Zynic follow-up on that promise with this, their first album (taking its title from the David Lynch film). Both songs that featured on that single appear here, in fact are the first two tracks, and are representative of the other eight. We’re broadly in synthpop territory but an uncommon-for-the-genre cynical attitude (genuine or put on – I’m still not 100% sure) and a fair amount of artfully-deployed swear words successfully set Zynic apart from the crowd. (The moniker Zynic is a play on the word cynic.)
There’s no doubt that H.P. Siemande is playing with the genre and listeners’ preconceptions of what it should deliver. This works more often than not, but there is a fine line between quirky and eccentric and outright cheesy or parody. The eccentricity is more pronounced, and therefore obvious, on the lyrical front than the musical one. Deadpan writing, in the style of Neil Tennant’s early Pet Shop Boys, is perhaps the most flattering description. Others less appreciative of the genre would probably just describe some of them as naff. I think the objective and the result is somewhere in between those two extremes.
At its best when it tries its least to be too ironic, there are some wonderful vocal and melody combinations within some expertly constructed pop songs that the likes of Vince Clarke, Andy McClusky and others from the first wave of synthpop would probably be quite happy to have their name attached to. Highlights for a variety of reasons are Dreams In Black And White, and the vibrant (and cleverly constructed) Soul For Sale – which for me is the anchor style wise to the entire enterprise. There’s a bit of Afternoons In Utopia Alphaville mixed with Wonderland era Erasure about Almost Silence. But the most eye/ear-catching entry is a superb cover of Depeche Mode’s Any Second Now (a brilliant track from Depeche Mode debut 1981 album Speak and Spell). It sticks closely to the source material: pace, style and soundwise and Siemande's vocals perfectly capture the youthful optimism of the original. But then Zynic inject their particular twist mostly notably when a Speak and Spell spells out their name “Z-y-n-i-c” during a bridge. Note though: If you try playing this via Spotify this track does not appear (probably a rights thing) – all the more reason to purchase a physical CD copy online. Absurd Lovesong closes proceedings on a top quality note, and on the back of those, I’d love to see this guy live.
For me it is at its least impressive when it pushes the lyrics to the outer limits. My Personal Kryptonite is a prime example - undeniably catchy musically but lyrically wince-inducing (tongue in cheek or not). Good to hear then that label Conzoom have recently announced the second single from Fire Walk With Me will be (you guessed it) My Personal Kryptonite. My newly-discovered affection for Zynic could be short-lived! 8/10
Rob Dyer (July 2011)
"Dreams In Black And White" (Single, 2011)
There’s something very odd about listening to jaunty, chirpy synthpop and hearing references John Carpenter’s anti-consumerist film They Live through striking lyrics like “Chip under my skin makes me buy shit I don’t need… Buy on credit, waste your brain, consumer paradise”. Having managed to secure remix duties from the likes of Leather Strip and Assemblage23, Germany's Zynic make an immediate impact with this debut single.
The title track (taken from their imminent debut album) is the perfect single choice. It’s not only a cracking pop song, with a gloriously melodic (and very memorable) chorus but the contrast created by the aforementioned subversive lyrics provide a rare and welcome (if slightly schizophrenic) depth within a style known overwhelmingly for a lightweight, positive outlook on the world. Zynic here prove you can have the best of both worlds and succeed in either. 7/10
Rob Dyer (May 2011)
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark