"Welcome to the 21st Century" said singer Glenn Sanderson as he introduced one of Cartagia's songs. In spite of its lament about social decline and never-ending wars, in many ways this mirrored the lighter mood of 80s synth pop. Cartagia are two blokes (Tony Penn is the other one), some synths, some computers, a pretty good voice and some impressive songs. They produce very melodic, romantic electronic pop songs with lush strings and wistful lyrics. A (little) like The Nine in chill out mode. For the most part, their traditional verse/chorus/verse structures are honed into an impressive range of strong material. Receiving loud support from tonight's small crowd (I suspect a hardcore of friends as is typical at these small gigs), it wasn't long before most everyone else in the club, curious to see just who was producing such a polished sound, made their way round to the dancefloor. What they saw might not have been exactly exhilarating - singer and synth guy - but what they heard frequently was.
Displaying why Cartagia could go on to much bigger things, this attention-grabbing sound didn't rely upon dance floor tactics and high BPM backing tracks but purely on the strength of their songwriting. So robust was this ability the song That Day relied purely upon a piano (sound) and voice and nothing more. Now, you've got to have some talent to pull that off convincingly. This was so good it almost wouldn't have been out of place on a mid-career Depeche Mode album. Traces of various influences can be sensed in Cartagia's music, but their own genuine talent ensures that it never falls into sad hero worshipping that simply imitates (poorly) that which inspired it. With the huge synth pop revival currently sweeping across Europe and, amazingly, the US, there should be no shortage of labels interested in signing up these newcomers. Let's just hope Cartagia don't go for the easy option and churn out perfectly competent but bland homages to the early 80s. Going by what we heard tonight - that looks unlikely.