Vitesse Chelsea 27099

A swath through time, back to the soft focus synth pop of early '80s Factory Records-style OMD and Pet Shop Boys, has been cut not by a resurgence in popularity of those groups, but by a one-man songwriting army named Stephin Merritt. It's clear the Vitesse duo of singer Hewson Chen and Joshua Klein (both are credited with "instruments") have followed Merritt's work as Magnetic Fields, but especially the synth pop obsessions of his Future Bible Heroes and 6ths projects, bringing a similar vocal ennui and plinking melodic sense to Chelsea 27099, their second album. While Vitesse lacks the lyrical deftness of Merritt's preposterous wordplay, it's too harsh to measure them against his mastery; the passionate efforts of their composition outshine Merritt's sometimes dismissively ironic attitude towards music. These soothing synth tones are signalling another leap in the New Romantic revival. (Parasol)