Released on June 7, the ‘SSDD’ EP from Auckland band Brother Sister has a charming setlist that’ll take you straight back to the ’80s. The three-sibling band revel in a style that’s been heavily influenced by their childhood, growing up around music, films and cartoons of that decade has definitely defined their 2019 sound.
New wave had emerged from punk rock during the mid-’70s, and with the explosion of new keyboard technology, the ’80s notoriously brought us synth pop, named for the synthesiser which featured as the main instrument in many songs classic songs of that era, and the sound which Brother Sister’s EP embraces. The five tracks of ‘SSDD’ are full of electronic samples and moody vocals that work slickly together to create a sound reminiscent of the days of mullets and double denim.
Dave Thompson (Alex The Kid) provides the keys and shares vocals with sister Taz Thompson (Master Blaster, Club Stupid) who also holds the bassline while brother Ben Thompson (Alex The Kid) is on the drums.
With shows like Stranger Things currently giving synths a big comeback I’m inclined to disagree with Morrissey’s beef that synthesisers are repellent instruments. This EP is rich with the definitive sounds of the ’80s, but offers enough stylistic differences to qualify as a fresh take. Whilst some of the era’s more iconic hits like Soft Cell’s Tainted Love and A Flock of Seagulls’ I Ran (So Far Away) were quite sharp and staccato in their keyboard lines, Brother Sister use the synth to make their songs flow, with a beat you can imagine walking down the street to.
Giving the EP its title, SSDD is all about working too much, paying too many bills and washing it all away with a drink – but that we can ultimately change the way we think and change our philosophy. It’s a contrast in tone to other more upbeat songs on the EP, but the overall message here is suitably ’80s-positive, designed to make you feel uplifted.
It’s a curse of synth pop that songs can too easily sound similar to each other – with a lot of repetition in the lyrics, Brother Sister escape falling into that trap only by restricting themselves to an EP. Fifteen minutes pass very pleasantly, but on repeat listens the songs do start to blur together. The closing track Breakdown adds a robotic element that harkens back to Ben and Dave’s noughties act Alex The Kid, rounding things up neatly. If you enjoy discovering some familiarity in new pop, then this EP is smart enough to deliver that with its clever use of ubiquitous synth sounds and samples.