Retrospective: Anything Box - "Peace"

Anything Box - Peace
(Sire, 1990)

Peace is a double anachronism - though quietly released in 1990 by a New Jerseyan trio of synth-pop aficionados, the record's echoing snares, tinny melodies and faux-British accents place it stylistically between the vibrancy of New Wave and the dark, automaton groove of Depeche Mode. Anything Box is an eerily accurate replica of its New Romantic forebears, a noirish fish in the tattered grunge waters of its own time, but ahead of the slew of Reagan-era revivalists that have spawned from labels like Captured Tracks and Sacred Bones over the past six years. It's this timelessly kitschy appeal that makes the outfit's music so lovable, so immediate - I heard Peace for the first time browsing the shelves of Sugarcube Records in Covington and fell in post-punk love at first chord. Though the record was unfortunately not for sale, I've spent the past 24 hours scouring YouTube for scraps of Anything Box's discography, uncovering nothing but pop perfection. 

In a way, Peace is a skeletal synth-pop simulacrum, extracting the essential building blocks of 80s pop and trimming the fat. The instrumental lattice of "When We Lie" is composed of little more than a plodding bassline and watery riffs sprinkled over a four-on-the-floor beat - structurally, it's nothing particularly groundbreaking, yet its melodic prudence and careful blend of spacey textures (which are strangely similar to those employed on recent Yung Lean efforts) make it minimally sublime. Perhaps Anything Box is to the 80s what PC Music's AG Cook is to the 00s - a deconstruction of pop tropes reconfigured into Rothko-esque sheets of color. Frontman Claude Strillo even channels Morrissey's signature melodramatic vocal delivery into a gloomy ballad reminiscent of The Cure circa Head On The Door on "Carmen", a cut that's addictively cheesy: it toes the line between sincerity and parody while remaining undeniably catchy.

Out of place today and even more so in its own time, Anything Box's discography is a misfit collection of elegant gloom that's criminally overlooked - post-John Hughes pop that floats idly in its own universe.