Boston-area synth-pop trio Freezepop, like the name, is a brightly colored, slightly chilly, non-organic treat of dubious nutritional value that is impossible to resist. One of the most orthodox of today’s new wave revivalists, Freezepop would be completely of its chosen era if not for lyrics that mention Gameboy video games and indie record stores. With a combination of Human League/Depeche Mode-inspired electronics and singer Liz Enthusiasm’s Patty Donahue-style deadpan, Freezepop’s music can easily trigger a Pavlovian need to watch a Square Pegs marathon.
Freezepop albums and songs are all essentially interchangeable. The catchy, well-crafted synth-pop is never quite as clever and witty as the band means it to be, but charming and enjoyable all the same. Highlights of Forever are the delightful “Plastic Stars” and “Science Genius Girl” (used in the videogame Karaoke Revolution). Fashion Impression Function features the excellent “Lazy” and “Shark Attack,” as well as remixes of several cuts from Forever. Hi-Five My Remix includes versions of Freezepop songs tweaked by like-minded artists, most notably Stephin Merritt’s Future Bible Heroes. Fancy Ultra Fresh is highlighted by the sprightly “Stakeout” and “I Am Not Your Gameboy,” as well as the moodier-than-usual “Outer Space.” Enthusiasm is a very likable frontperson, and the band is great fun for anyone with a soft spot for the early ’80s.
“I know you’ve heard it all before,” Enthusiasm confesses on FutureFutureFuturePerfect‘s “Pop Music Is Not a Crime,” but that’s not entirely fair. On their first disc for Ryko, Freezepop actually stretch out a tiny bit — the tempos are more varied and, on a couple of songs, the deadpan vocalist comes dangerously close to emoting. The relatively muscular “Less Talk More Rokk” (featured in the video game Guitar Hero II) and “Frontload” take the trio closer to rock than they’ve ever been before, while “Do You Like Boys” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Blondie album — Enthusiasm even approximates a Debbie Harry coo for the track. Freezepop prove capable of change on FutureFutureFuturePerfect — not enough to alienate old fans (or gain any new ones) — but adequate to keep from plowing their enjoyable-but-predictable rut too deep for future escape.
Freezepop synth player Sean T. Drinkwater was also the frontman for the neo-New Romantic outfit Lifestyle. Where Freezepop delves into the poppier sounds of Speak & Spell Depeche Mode, Lifestyle updated the more melodramatic sounds of Spandau Ballet and Visage. The aptly titled At the Risk of Sounding Pretentious finds Lifestyle far too impressed with their own cleverness, as potentially good material is torpedoed by Drinkwater’s ridiculously overblown Tony Hadley/David Bowie vocals, which nudge Lifestyle well over the line separating affectionate tribute from smug parody. Drinkwater wisely tones it down on the Frontier EP, allowing tracks like the outstanding “My Hit Song” to shine. An album’s worth of unreleased Lifestyle material is available for streaming at their website.