Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fuses pop, techno to delight

were an English band formed in 1994. The height of their popularity spanned from 1996 to 1998. The Republica sound was described by the band as "techno-pop punk rock", although Melody Maker took to calling it "electronica", a label which stuck as a genre category.

Techno, while always popular at raves across the country, seems to be catching on with radio stations and being met with a positive response. Groups like The Prodigy and solo artist Moby have been hitting clubs around the world to meet with mainstream success. And then, a band like Republica appears, fusing industrial, dance pop and techno and producing a very radio-friendly single, "Ready To Go," that spreads like wildfire. This should not be a surprise.

Though they originate in England, Republica is about as far from the standard Brit-pop as any band could be. Interestingly, they retain several of the same influences as many current chart-toppers. Drummer Dave Barbarossa is the former drummer for Bow Wow Wow and Adam Ant, while keyboardist Tim Dorney played previously with U.K. media darlings Flowered Up. Singer Saffron has the techno experience, having sung with The Prodigy, Jah Wobble and The Shamen. In addition, there is Andy Todd, who has produced songs for the likes of Barbara Streisand and Bjork, as well as guitarist Johnny Male. A talented bunch, indeed.

Together, Republica delivers an album filled with humor and cynicism that doesn't once lose any of its energy. With curt and to-the-point lyrics such as "Shut up, I'm talking ... Get out, you're walking," from "Drop Dead Gorgeous," Republica refuses to quiet down. Even better, "Republica" contains several tunes that should make for easy follow-ups to the success of "Ready To Go," including the drum-laden "Get Off" and the song which is already a club hit in Britain, "Bloke."

Throughout the album, Republica creates a gleefulness that isn't always heard in today's hit music. When they talk about their dislikes ("Out of the Darkness" is about the workday's demand on one's time, and "Picture Me" pokes fun at cover girls), the songs still move fast and hit a comic side swiftly. Finally, for those who can't get enough of "Ready To Go," "Republica" features the original version of the song, outstandingly brilliant when compared to the watered-down U.S. radio version.

While Republica might mean nothing to fans of bands like Enigma or vocalists like Crystal Waters, they will certainly fill the void for lovers of Blondie or Siouxsie and the Banshees and anyone who like a bit of pop with their techno.

Republica was started by former Flowered Up keyboard player Tim Dorney and Andy Todd, and quickly came to popular attention with their first single "Ready to Go" and its follow-up "Drop Dead Gorgeous". The lead singer, Saffron, was previously a lead vocalist on N-Joi's rave crossover pop hit, "Anthem", in 1990. The band's self-titled first album was released in July 1996 and reached #4 in the album charts. However, their follow-up 1998 album Speed Ballads and its lead single, From Rush Hour With Love, reached only #37 and #20 respectively. The group is rumoured to have dissolved shortly afterwards but has never officially stated this. The last message to fans in late 1999 via their official website stated "Republica are not recording at this time".

The band suffered when their label, Deconstruction Records, folded shortly after the release of Speed Ballads. Deconstruction's back catalogue was swallowed up by BMG, who released a Best Of album. On finding out about the release of Ready To Go - the best of Republica, Saffron promptly posted a statement on her new band's website that said "To all the fans, don't be fooled by this shoddy release. It's completely unofficial, the band had no dealings whatsoever with its release, we were not even informed. The track listing isn't one we'd have picked, the cover photos are so way out of date, poor in quality and overall it won't contribute to us bringing out a brand new album".[citation needed] Republica has not released any new material since the release of the "Best Of" album, and, while the bandmembers' pursuit of solo projects would imply the band has split, their official website merely states that they are "not recording at this time". During their lifetime, the group attracted much positive press coverage. Emerging after a wave of female-fronted rock bands (such as Elastica, Lush, Sleeper, Echobelly and Kenickie), it had, like Garbage, a notably more aggressive and electronic sound. Saffron was born in Nigeria and claims Portuguese, Chinese and English ancestry. Outside of the band, she was also the featured vocalist on The Prodigy's "Fuel My Fire", from their 1997 album The Fat of the Land. More recently, Saffron provided guest vocals on Parka's first album Attack of the Hundred Yard Hardman on the track "DJ In The Corner".

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