- Slick synth pop from Donato Dozzy and retina.it.
- Almost 20 years ago, Donato Dozzy was in a band called Kitchentools. They were signed to a major label and appeared on Italian TV. 13 years later, Dozzy's friends in retina.it released pitch-perfect '80s post-punk as The Ne-21. Those two projects appear to be the genesis of Men With Secrets, a new project from Dozzy and retina.it's Lino Monaco and Nicola Buono. (The trio have also made techno together as Le Officine Di Efesto.) Though their debut album comes out on The Bunker New York, one of the US's premiere techno labels, the trio emerge as a convincing synth pop outfit.
I get apprehensive when techno artists try their hand at something like this—after all, writing synth pop songs requires a whole different set of skills than making a techno track. But Psycho Romance & Other Spooky Ballads is well executed, easing you in with an experimental interlude and the instrumental stunner "The Misfortunes Of Virtues," a cascade of anxious arpeggios and juddering basslines. That's when you realise that this is a synth pop album where the synths are the focal point rather than the vocals.
And the vocals? They range from mumbled vocoder to arch talk-singing, touching on a spectrum of '80s pop that runs from lush new wave (the vivid "Aletheia") to eerie, Tom Ellard-style weirdness ("Secrets Of The Crowd"). The melodies are strong and hummable, particularly on "Angelus Novus." The trio are clearly having fun, and the feeling is contagious.
The name Men With Secrets comes from a 1983 track by Richard Bone, who was something of an unsung hero for New York's electronic and experimental pop scene. These guys aren't just casual synth pop fans—they're hardcore nerds. Each track digs into a different era or style, and some are more like composites. The Linn drum clack of "Dramatic" sounds completely of its own realm, while the "4th Dimension Signal" interludes point to no wave and electroacoustic music.
Dozzy, Monaco and Buono's '80s turn comes at a fashionable time, when everyone from Marc Houle to Borusiade is making music that would sound more at home on a dance floor in 1986 than 2020. While less distinct than Borusiade's Fortunate Isolation, Psycho Romance is the best example of this kind of '80s worship yet. It goes down smooth, from the rock-solid songwriting to the sequencing of the album. If Psycho Romance sounds a little too true to the music it's reviving, that's only because it meets its standard.
01. 4th Dimension Signal n°1
02. The Misfortunes Of Virtues
03. Cabaret Démodé
04. 4th Dimension Signal n°2
06. Elle Est Nihiliste
07. 4th Dimension Signal n°3
08. Angelus Novus
09. Secrets Of The Crowd
10. 4th Dimension Signal n°4
12. Ruins On Ruins
13. 4th Dimension Signal n°5