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  Hello Mannequin 
Artist: Joy Electric 
Label: Tooth and Nail
Times: 14 track 56:38 minutes 
Hello Mannequin, I'm tired
Hello Mannequin, I'm cold
Hello Mannequin, I'm hungry
Hello Mannequin, I'm weak 
Hello Mannequin, I'm sad
Hello Mannequin, I'm angry
Hello Mannequin, I'm scared
Hello Mannequin, will you be my friend?
This is how Ronnie Martin, the brainchild behind Joy Electric, chooses to open his latest album entitled quite fittingly, Hello Mannequin.  From the opening lyrics the listener gets the idea that what's to follow is going to be a roller coaster ride of human emotion and the next 13 tracks are just that a roller coaster ride joy, heartache, lost and insignificance are but a few of the emotions one will be exposed to on this album

Of course, all the lyrics on this album aren't autobiographical, although it is obvious some of it is. Tracks like "Song For All Time" continue a long standing theme that has always been in Joy Electric's music; the lost and/or longing of past friendships that have ended. 

Although Martin's lyrics can sometimes be a little obtuse, he still manages to craft lines that allow listeners to connect with his music on a deeper level. A line from the song "The Singing Arc" is a perfect example of this: "I'm just a ghost of my former (self), the loss of my peers has sentenced me, to suffer the knowledge of what I've learned." 

Hello Mannequin at times explores some of the same topics as Daniel Amos in their historic and unforgettable Alarma Chronicles. One such theme is man's struggle with surviving in this new age of technology, how can we cope, and how can we find meaning. "Nikola Tesla," the album's eleventh track, presents the sad conclusion of each one of our lives if we strive to be remembered here on earth for things that are only temporal, like fame and fortune, instead of living a life of love as Christ did. "Genius, scientist, inventor/penniless at death, yet ignored/Nikola Tesla, who remembers....." 

What's great about this album as a whole is its spiritual accessibility. JE's last two albums, The Tick Tock Treasury and The White Songbook, were good albums, but emotionally lacking, whereas on this album emotion abounds. Anyone who has reached out to
things and people asking "will you be my friend?" and a lot of the time had the question returned unanswered, just like in the opening track, will find it easy to identify with the narrator on “Hello Mannequin:”  It ends with a voice repeating hello over and over again leaving the narrator alone with his mannequin.” This evokes thoughts of how Christ must have felt when he was left alone by His disciples in Gethsemene when He was arrested.

There have been enough comparisons of Martin's musical compositions to old ATARI games beeps and blips. The arrangements on Hello Mannequin are more stripped down and use sounds that have been absent on previous JE records. An example is "Song For All Time" that uses a synthetic church bell as a nice addition. Generally the music is upbeat, but there is tons of diversity on the tracks. Some are energetic and poppy  such as "The Birth of the Telegram, 1814;" some like “Wolf in the Bend” are dark and moody while others like “A Page of Life” are wistful and hopeful. For old fans the sounds on Mannequin are a hybrid of two earlier JE records, We Are the Music Makers and Robot Rock. He continues his formula of having "happy" analog synthesizer music with heartbreaking melancholy lyrics that create an experience that has to be heard to be appreciated. With this record, Ronnie Martin has presented his best composition to date. Hopefully this won’t be the last. 

Aaron Anderson 7/12/2004

In addition to writing for Phantom Tollbooth, Aaron also independently writes poems, devotionals and more about the human condition. To read more of his writings or order some of his books go to:


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