ALBUM REVIEW: Videosex - A raunchy hidden gem of 1980's Yugoslovian Synth-Pop!
Released in 1984, Videosex found themselves entering through the nations consciousness on the eve of irreversible change. Tito had died 4 years prior to the release, releasing ethnic and racial tensions that had been bottled up during his reign. A brave move to release an album with overtly sexual and violent themes, then.
With their debut album, Videosex use synths that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tears for Fears album, and drum machine beats that would get any European club dancing. They managed to effectively combine these popular musical trends with powerful storytelling that would resonate with their youth.
You’ll get an example of this storytelling right off the bat with the opening track, “Detektivska priča” (A Detective Story). Setting a sombre tone, here we follow the story of an unhinged woman on the streets searching for male victims. She uses her beauty to seduce her victims. Things take a turn for the worse when we discover she’s been collecting her victim’s hands in the fridge. Sonically, if you’d hazard a guess and say it must be a track with dark musical themes, you’d be wrong. If you listened to the song without translation you’d probably expect it to be a pretty PG affair, with a catchy chorus and jubilant synths giving it great huge single potential.
Although this first song grabs our attention, the storytelling is at its best on the album when it’s more personal, and luckily there are plenty of songs that don’t shy away from opening up. Childhood trauma is explored on “Moja Mama” (My Mama) where deceiving fairytale synths mask the story of a Mother committing suicide after childbirth, and the Father swiftly disappearing. Whether the story is true to any of the musician’s experiences, or a comment on social issues, the sentiment remains a powerful one.
The main theme explored on the album is undoubtedly sexuality. Lead singer Anja Rupel’s vocals provide the perfect combination of playful and sensual on these tracks, such as on the track “Ana”. The repeated one line chorus here of “Ana why do I love you like crazy” suggests a frustration that the two lovers do not have the relationship Rupel yearns for, although the song does not go as far as to explain why. It’s this subtlety that makes the whole album such an interesting and rewarding listen. We see this again on the title track “Videosex," with its vague lyrics being open to interpretation to the listener at the same time as being undeniably sexual. The track is a high point for Rupel, too, with her intoxicating vocals adding a layer of sensuality to the track.
Rupel hands singing duties to male singer Davor Gobac on the anthemic track, “Kako bih volio da si tu” (How I wish You Were Here). Similar in theme to “Ana”, Gobac sings about his longing to be with his lover on the other side of the city. The lyrics talk of the bland city Gobac finds himself in, clearly only finding solace when with his lover…and also when he’s masturbating. A bold statement to make on a commercial record, but no doubt the distinction between the drab brutalist surroundings and the ecstasy found in feelings - so frowned upon - struck a chord with a huge portion of youth not only in Yugoslavia, but also throughout other Eastern European countries in a similar situation.
It’s Videosex’s ability to make songs like this one feel so danceable and fun that cements the record as a classic of its era. There’s not a chorus on the album that won’t burrow into your conscious, and the groups musical ability seems to suggest far more experience than you’d expect from a debut album. Closing the album on a 7 minute long instrumental confirms their confidence with a multitude of instruments, effortlessly weaving electric guitars into a synth and drum machine driven track.
In our current climate, so many countries are finding their civil rights regressing due to nationalist right-wing regimes. Many artists are undoubtedly finding it harder to express themselves fully as a result. It’s times like these that albums like Videosex become more important – they show us that no matter what’s happening around us, there’ll always be individuals looking to push the boundaries for the rest of us. Videosex is a blueprint for rebellion.