Oliver Marson first came to my attention as part of the heavily Smiths inspired Guernsey based trio China Aster (that also gave us former Of Empires drummer George Le Page) several years ago.
Since then he has, as many youngsters in Guernsey are wont to do, headed to the UK and has now emerged with a debut single under his own name called, intriguingly, Cocaine Romance.
From the drum snaps and bass & synth riff that begins the track we are thrown back to the early 80s with a sound that marries elements of The Human League, Joy Division, the darker side of early Depeche Mode and even a bit of Sisters Of Mercy and early Ministry.
It goes on to become something danceable, though certainly not in an upbeat ‘club banger’ kind of way, but in the fine dark disco tradition with Marson’s deep vocal sound bringing to mind many of the same influences with The Smith’s added in for good measure.
While the music may be unashamedly retro the production has modern clarity and the subject matter is timeless.
While it may focus, as the title suggests, on issues around drugs, relationships and relationships with drugs, it does so in a way that I think anyone could find their own angle on, giving it a universality which, for a debut single, is certainly a triumph.
Marson’s approach takes things to a grimy street level with storytelling and lyrics, painting a picture that is evocative and intoxicating in equal measure.
This is backed up by an accompanying video that has a similar 80s feel married with a hint of modern student life and looks like it has surprisingly high production values.
Marson may not appear to be entirely comfortable lip syncing on camera, but the whole thing captures the overall mood and tone very well.
Cocaine Romance is a strong debut release that, if a little derivative of styles past, deals with things in its own way and certainly has both substance and danceability.
I have to admit though that I couldn’t help wanting to see the band on stage on Top Of The Pops circa 1982 with a range of homemade electronics and suitably dated darker new romantic outfits…