March 5, 2005

We Are The Music Makers

Joy Electric (1996, Tooth & Nail Records)
We Are The Music Makers

I’ve been a fan of Ronnie Martin’s ever since his days in Dance House Children. His beautiful synth-pop, mixed with delightfully innocent and childish lyrics and a delicate voice was always a beautiful contrast. That formula carries over into his Joy Electric days, but the music has even more depth.

It’s easy to dismiss Joy Electric as electronic “beep beep”/video game music (as my roommate and many friends do). It’s probably this reason that he fails to get any recognition in this age of punk wannabes and rehashes. However, digging beneath the surface, you see that all of those electronic bells and whistles are merely trappings for some of the most beautiful pop songs and melodies you’ll find. Case in point: “May All Saints” features a very heavy “bleeps and beeps” content, but you also hear poignant, drifting synth melodies, along with Ronnie’s delicate, almost effeminate vocals. However, many people will just stop at the surface and won’t hear the beauty contained in each of these 10 songs.

This album also sees an increase in Martin’s lyrical depth. The lyrics are rife with medieval imagery, which makes for a delightful contrast with the synthesizers and electronic sounds. On “Burgundy Years”, Martin sings:

The scepter song hearkens dominion
To sew the champion
The mantle of the sword bearer
Becomes the hummers harp of elation
Foes from the northern nook
And spirits from the fall
Behold the ancient emperor
Has arms outstretched to all

There is also Christian imagery presented, but Martin again shows his tact and tastefulness by using stirring images and poetic language to paint a beautiful picture of God and His love. Not once does Martin resort to cliché or brow-beating. His lyrics are well-written and several images have multiple meanings, adding more dimension to the songs without sacrificing any emotional ties. I rarely come across a writer who is as open about his desires, failures, and loves as Ronnie Martin.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, Joy Electric’s music brings back a sort of wistfulness for more innocent, carefree days. Maybe it’s the hooks and melodies that hit me, or the unpretentious lyrics, or the pure electronic sounds he uses. While this music may not be for everyone, I’m convinced that Joy Electric writes the best pop songs on the planet, electronic or not. I love Ronnie Martin’s music, and it’s sad to see such a genius fail to get the respect he so richly deserves.