Top 12 Australian Synthpop Songs Of The 1980s

Top 12 Australian Synthpop Songs Of The 1980s

inxs 80s
Michael Hutchence and Tim Farriss of INXS, 1984 (Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty Images)

Australian rock gets all the glory, but the contribution this country made to synth-based music during the 1980s should not be overlooked.

Here are a dozen synthpop tracks to come out of Australia that stand up alongside the genre’s very best from anywhere in the world. And for the purposes of this list, we’re using the term synthpop to encompass anything with a prominent synthesizer element, including some new wave and funk songs.
12. “We Can Get Together” by Flowers (1980)

The band shortly to be known as Icehouse burst onto the Australian music scene at the dawn of the decade with an album’s worth of new wave material that blended European synth influences with the energy of Oz rock. Debut single “Can’t Help Myself” was the slightly bigger hit, with this follow-up keeping the band’s momentum going.


11. " Something That You Said" by Kids In The Kitchen (1984)

After a single in each of 1983 (“Change In Mood”) and 1984 (“Bitter Desire”), Melbourne’s Kids In The Kitchen released debut album Shine in 1985, a month after they unleashed this atmospheric third top 20 hit, which channeled the drama of ABC and Ultravox with its fuller, richer production.


10. "Computer One" by Dear Enemy (1983)

In 1983, computers were far from the household item they are today – a fact which lent this sole top 20 hit by Melbourne band Dear Enemy an element of modernity, as did the synths featured on the song. Lyrically, “Computer One” hinted at the future to come, with singer Ron Martini turning to his PC for information on why his girlfriend dumped him.


9. “Holy Word” by I’m Talking (1986)

The pop/funk group that made a star out of Kate Ceberano, I’m Talking scored a third top 10 hit with this synth-drenched song, released in the lead-up to the band’s long-awaited debut album, Bear Witness. Due to Kate’s absence during the recording of “Holy Word”, lead vocals were handled by I’m Talking’s other vocalist, Zan Abeyrartne.


8. "Burn For You" by INXS (1984)

Not the first time INXS had featured keyboards prominently in one of their songs, “Burn For You” was certainly the synthiest track the band released. From the piercing synth riff heard throughout to the big power chords towards the end of the tune, the song gave the band a third consecutive top 3 hit from The Swing.


7. "So Much For Love" by Venetians (1985)

Some stadium synthpop now courtesy of Mark Opitz, who worked on albums by everyone from The Angels to Noiseworks. The producer gave Sydney’s Venetians a world-class sound for this lead single from second album Calling In The Lions – another track with a naggingly insistent keyboard hook (it comes it at the 2:30 mark) that adds a whole other level to the song.


6. "Too Young For Promises" by Koo De Tah (1985)

Featuring New Zealander Tina Cross on vocals, the short-lived synthpop group was formed in Sydney with Russian-born Berger the other main member. Besides this debut top 10 hit, Koo De Tah’s less successful follow-ups “Body Talk” and “Think Of Me” were also brilliant, while their self-titled album is well overdue for a reissue.


5. "Insect" by Boxcar (1989)

Often described as Australia’s answer to New Order thanks to their distinctive bass lines, Brisbane’s Boxcar never took off in Australia despite releasing a string of excellent synthpop tracks, including this second single, which followed debut “Freemason (You Broke The Promise)” into Billboard’s dance chart. Albums Vertigo (1990) and Algorhythm (1994) were just as frustratingly poorly received commercially.


4. "No Say In It" by Machinations (1984)

Providing Sydney’s Machinations with their ARIA top 50 pinnacle – it reached number 14 – “No Say In It” was a bouncy pop smash from the pioneering local synthpop band who may not have scaled the chart heights of some of their contemporaries, but whose work dating back to 1981 no doubt influenced everyone else on the local electronic music scene.


3. "Stimulation" by Wa Wa Nee (1986)

Like Machinations, Wa Wa Nee combined synthpop and funk elements in their music, but wrapped it up in a Smash Hits-ready image. The combination of a killer, sexually charged tune and the band’s youthful good looks ensured “Stimulation” remained a top 10 fixture for 12 weeks, and was followed by three more big hits from the band’s self-titled debut album.


2. "Listening" by Pseudo Echo (1983)

Famously invited onto Countdown before they even had a record deal, Pseudo Echo were quickly snapped up by EMI. Having played a demo version of “Listening” on the music show, the Melbourne band who became synonymous with keytars gave the song a proper studio makeover with producer Peter Dawkins and enjoyed the first of six top 20 hits with it. 


1. "Send Me An Angel" by Real Life (1983)

From its opening keyboard riff right through to its concluding electronic drum roll, this debut single by Melbourne’s Real Life is synthpop perfection. A top 10 smash in Australia, and a top 30 hit twice over in the US thanks to a 1989 re-release, “Send Me An Angel” boasts a catchy hook, a dramatic operatic female vocal and still sounds as good today as it did 36 years ago.


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