Chapter 13

The World from Heaven

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If there's going to be eternal and endless -- and potentially oppressive -- room for the latest classic rock revivalist or roots music obsessive, then, darn it, make way for those that find their own background in the clean and beautiful synth-driven music of the early '80s! Chapter 13, who started off life as Marble Index, know this as much as anyone, and, on the excellent The World From Heaven album, the duo of Paul Rothwell and James Slattery bring said world to wonderful life once again. The reference points are obvious and open throughout, the same way the underrated American duo Romania did a few years prior to this album's release: Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Ultravox, the Human League, Soft Cell, Visage, sequencers, sequencers, sequencers! Every musical note comes from keyboards and drum machines, and there's not a guitar in sight, and Rothwell's enjoyably lugubrious semi-moan perfectly offsets the sweet synth melodies in just about every track. He's got the gift of that gloomily elegant style of romance in his voice that just seems to suit the material just right, crooning for darkened discos that favor goth without the overt theatricality. Song titles like "Soldiers in Skirts" -- with perfectly appropriate lyrics about "Valentino nights" -- and "Age of Glass" further capture that just-arty, just-transgressive enough feel of the time; one can almost imagine the videos. Highlight tracks include the chime-tinged gentle swing of "Plan K," originally the B-side from a single, and deservedly rescued for appearance here, and "Star93," with a great deep synth bass start and comparatively stripped down arrangement. The best compliment to give Chapter 13 is that they come up with their own memorable contribution to the style instead of simply rehashing the past. Streamlined and endlessly danceable -- and why not?