Johnny M5: Fantasy of Love-I've Heard That Song Before...Haven't I?
by Rix Roundtree-Harrison
Familiar, that's what JohnnyM5's album "Fantasy of Love" is, familiar. While listening I was over come with the feeling that I'd heard certain synthesized rhythms and keyboard riffs before, but I could not put my finger on where.
I was first introduced to JohnnyM5 through ZYX music’s “Italo Disco Collection 8” which is a compilation series that specializes in releasing Italo disco classics from the 1980's. Upon hearing the three JM5 tracks ZYX had included in the IDC8 collection I instantly knew that something wasn’t quite right. Though the three tracks “Give Me Your Love,” “Moscow Nights,” and “Shadows Of My Dreams” were outstanding and seemed to fit right along side the other 80’s dance tracks, they also didn’t seem to fit, it was inexplicably strange. These three JM5 tracks were so much more than the company they kept, they were much more intricate, layered, textured and far more interesting. After some investigative work I discovered that these JM5 tracks were not long forgotten hi-nrg tracks from some studio band from the 80's, these were brand spanking tracks by a new 21st century band, and they got me excited. So wonderful were these three tracks I have to have more so I purchased JM5’s entire album "Fantasy of Love," and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
JohnnyM5 is John d'Arrow-music/voice/face, and René Fortran-lyrics. On the JM5 website John d'Arrow is the first to admit that he is deeply influenced by the music of the 1980's. John d'Arrow list among his favorite producers the 80's hit makers, Tony Hendrik (Bad Boys Blue, Chyp-Notic, Airwave), Roberto Zanetti (Savage, Ice MC, Corona, Alexia), Mauro Farina (DJ Miko, Ken Laszlo), Mike Mareen (K. B. Caps), and Luis Rodriguez (Modern Talking)
When listening to "Fantasy of Love" the influence of John d'Arrow's favorite producers is obvious, but what is also obvious is what is missing. Other than Erasure I did not hear the influences of the 80's synthpop superstars, you know who they are, Depeche Mode, Visage, Pet Shop Boys, Ultravox, Book Of Love, Gary Numan, and the Human League. But what I did hear in the JM5 sound was bits and pieces of the unsung heroes of synthpop, Strange Advance, Silent Circle, Pseudo Echo, One 2 Many, Peter Schilling, Information Society, Men Without Hats, Real Life, Our Daughter’s Wedding, the Units, and the Hunger. JM5's sound brought to mind those bands, yet I couldn't point to any specific point in JM5's music where the influence is found, yet it is there. JM5 does not entirely recreate an 80's sound, what they do is carefully update it with just the right amount of 21st century embellishments. With their cleverly crafted sound JM5 makes you feel that you have heard their keyboard rhythms and riffs before. But then when you search the music files of your mind you can't seem to pinpoint where you heard the mesmerizing keyboard work, but you know you heard it before (or at least you think you have, but then, you're not sure), that's what makes it so elusively familiar (in a wonderful way).
Though JM5 drinks from the 80's well they do not sound retro, no not at all, JM5 sounds very contemporary, but you will find no 90's techno touches or brain blitzing electronics, it’s all keyboard wizardry. JM5 played nicely along side other 21st century synthpopsters and electricians like Echo Image, Colony 5, I Satellite, and Ladytron.
"Fantasy of Love" contains 16 exceptional keyboard driven tracks that strike a wonderful balance between synthpop and Italo disco. “I Need You," a great track that puts the “synth” in synthpop. As the angst ridden and lovelorn John d'Arrow pines for love, dark, thick, moody synthesizers drool and drone out their enthralling and hypnotic moan. See the inexpensive yet effective video for “I Need You” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwKyn6RBKxY
The track “Give Me Your Love” puts the “pop” in synthpop. This is one light bouncy lively frothy piece of fun. It’s like JM5 as a Las Vegas headliner and this would be their signature song. The song has me picturing JM5 at their keyboards dressed in tuxedos, belting out this tune while surrounded by beautiful Vegas showgirls. Like Las Vegas "Give Me Your Love" has synthesized electric neon glitz and glamour. It has brilliant and effervescent keyboards that tingle, tinkle, clink and sparkle like champagne splashing into crystal goblets, it's intoxicating.
JM5 walks that thin line between synthpop and Italo disco, taking elements of both genres to create engaging excellent concoctions like “Release Me,” “Take The Heat,” "Loreen," and “Helpless.” John d'Arrow screams out "I wanna dance! I wanna dance!" and does just that in the Italo (and so much more) tracks "Moscow Nights," "Flames Of Love," the stellar remake of 80's Italo icon Fancy's classic, and "Shadows Of My Dreams," the keyboard riffs in this incredible piece are awesome.
Out of the 16 tracks there is only one that I did not care for and that is the final track "Time To Remember." Why? Whereas all the other tracks on "Fantasy of Love" are influenced by the 80's they sound modern. Ironically "Time To Remember" sounds like a dated and dusty musical relic from the 80's. But other than that JohnnyM5's "Fantasy of Love" is one fantastic piece of music.
© 2010 Rix Roundtree-Harrison
Artist Link: http://www.johnnym5.de/index.html