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Old 06-29-2010, 12:36 AM   #31 (permalink)
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Well, whether or not anyone's interest in this thread's been exhausted already, I need something that's not as frustrating as my dissertation to keep me occupied!

Another update (maybe two) to come very soon, perhaps even later today. In the mean time, it's about time I got some sort of index for this thing going. So, (in the order I've posted about them) albums covered so far then...

David Byrne - Look Into the Eyeball (2001)
The Pretenders - Break Up the Concrete (2008)
Television Personalities - And Don't the Kids Just Love It (1981)
Divinyls - Underworld (1996)
Saint Ettiene - Finisterre (2002)
Scritti Politti - Cupid & Psyche '85 (1985)
Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit (2006)
The Desert Rose Band - The Desert Rose Band (1987)
Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours (1955)
Cat Power - The Greatest (2006)
Everything But the Girl - Idlewild (1988)
Scott Walker - Scott 4 (1969)
Barrington Levy - Here I Come (1985)
Beres Hammond - Soul Reggae (1976)
Matisyahu - Youth (2006)
Bat For Lashes - Two Suns (2009)
Iggy Pop - Blah Blah Blah (1986)
Zola Jesus - The Spoils (2009)
Badly Drawn Boy - About a Boy OST (2002)
Bobby McFerrin - The Voice (1984)
David Bowie - Let's Dance (1983)
ABC - Lexicon Of Love (1982)
Heaven 17 - How Men Are (1984)
The Human League - Dare! (1981)

Can't be bothered to hotlink each one to their individual bits either

Needless to say, this thing'll be added to over time - I've got at least four more bundles of albums to come (provided I don't get bored of this thread again before I can post them)...
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Old 07-01-2010, 05:40 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Time for that belated update then...

ABC - Lexicon Of Love (1982)

Whoever said music critics don't know bugger all eh As per one of a couple of posts I'm gonna make in this thread about the more endearing corners of an area of pop music that time hasn't been particularly kind to over the years, we're gonna have a quick look at what happens when a journo joins the band he's interviewing. Upon interviewing the new wave outfit Vice Versa in 1980, Martin Fry did indeed end up joining their ranks as vocalist - a move which saw the band's name change to a much more recognisable ABC. 2 years and a hit single (in the shape of funky Tears Are Not Enough) later, the time came for the quartet to record and release their debut album; Lexicon Of Love.

It's a ham-and-marmite sandwich of an album this, meaning it's no exagerration to say that you'll either love or hate it. Not in the mad as a box frogs/Captain Beefheart sense, obviously, but it all depends on your standing when it comes to that instantly-recognisable 80s synthpop/new wave sound. While this album hasn't dated as badly as, say, any given Prefab Sprout record, there's still a very early 80s sound to the percussion and synths. Very Trevor Horn, basically, who as the more retro-savvy among you may have noticed just by listening to the song below, actually produced this album. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure this album was the first huge, trans-Atlantic hit for Horn, who assembled his characteristic production team for the first time during the album sessions - Gary Langan: chief engineer; Anne Dudley: arrangements; JJ Jeczalik: programming. Emerging from the same Sheffield scene as the Human League as they did, it's not much of a surprise that ABC's debut sounds overall like a funkier version of the former's landmark Dare! album. Although there's a little bit of a lull in quality on the second side (the last two tracks in particular), Lexicon Of Love remains pretty much an essential pop album, with enough of a soft approach and melodic appeal about it (including one of my favourite hits of the 80s by a long shot) to have it rise well above mediocrity. When all's said and done, you couldn't have a pop thread without it.



Heaven 17 - How Men Are (1984)

In October 1980, a pivotal event in the history and evolution of pop music occured and, no, it wasn't Jim Callaghan resignation as Labour Party leader. Instead, it involved the same Sheffield scene that I was on about above (and, what the hell, I may as well focus on it with this post eh) - specifically the growing sense of dissatisfaction within the Human League at their lack of success that saw the band split up, seeing singer Phil Oakey and drummer Ian Burden retain the Human League name, while keyboardists Ian Craig Marsh and Marty Ware went the other way. While we'll rejoin Oakey and Burden in a bit, Marsh and Ware recruited a fella called Glenn Gregory as their singer, lifted their name from a Clockwork Orange and away they went, on their own path to pop stardom.

Although much more consistent than Oakey and co, meaning that any one of their first three albums are definitely worth your while if you're up for looking at bygone pillars of the pop community, their third album here is probably my pick of the bunch, or at the very least the one I've listened to enough to particularly want to write a couple of paragraphs about it. Plus, this album is the first Heaven 17 album which isn't entirely synthesized either, which makes it stand out from their early work that little bit more. As a unified sound, there's enough competent musicianship, use of what were then modern synthesizers and studio treatments and enough of an approachable vocal style from Gregory (for want of a better phrase) to set it up as a genuine pop album. Given that Ware and Marsh were side of the Human League that drove Oakey and Burden to pursue the more left-of-centre direction they did when all four of them were in the same band though, there isn't so much of an emphasis on melody as other synthpop albums of the day, but rather a lot more effort goes into creating vivid sonic pictures and delivering a good old-fashioned lefty, anti-yuppie message through the lyrics.

To sum it up in a sentence, either side of the Human League's splitting up in 1980 Heaven 17 here, while sparing no effort in giving themselves a very chart-friendly demeanour, have quite a bit in common with the earlier, more confrontational Human League records.



The Human League - Dare! (1981)

Now, let's have a look at the other side of that split eh. Better yet, I'll give you a bit more insight into why the split happened in the first place. There's that whole dissatisfaction with the lack of any real chart action the Human League were generating up until October 1980, but it was also down to the growing tension within the band over their musical direction, principally between Phil Oakey and Marty Ware. In essence, Ware saw the answer to this little problem the quartet had come upon being the continued pursuit of their more confrontational, more post-punk than synthpop direction, while Oakey thought it wouldn't exactly be a bad idea to lighten up and take a less aggressive appraoch to the charts. So, as I've already said, keyboardists Marty Ware and Ian Craig Marsh packed their bags and formed Heaven 17 while Oakey and drummer Ian Burden were left to pick up the shattered pieces of the Human League and start from scratch. Instead of looking for a couple more musos to recruit, Oakey made quite the odd move of picking up two girls (Joanne Cathrell and Susan Sulley) from a nightclub and employing them as backing vocalists, before taking to the studio to record a third album without any real hope of making a dent in the charts on either side of the Atlantic.

The result was an across-the-board smash of an album, propelled by the band's noticeably softer approach in the studio and the mega-hits Love Action and Don't You Want Me (which still grace many a dancefloor to this day). Not only did this album spawn two of the bigger and better hit singles of the 80s, but it was also a hugely influential landmark in that it was the first pop album to be recorded entirely on synth. Like Cupid and Psyche (my other favourite 80s pop album), it's true that you can blame this for a lot of charmless, passionless pop music to come over the next decade but, in all honesty, you can say that for just about any truly influential pop album. What matters is that the music is easily among the cream of the crop in its area and that is, of course, the case here - an album with more synth to it than you can shake a stick at, all the more charming for how 'of its time' bits of it sound, propelled by some of the most infectious hooks and catchy choruses committed to record.

To put it nice and pretentiously, this album serves as the kinda yin to Heaven 17's yang - a much brighter, friendlier sound than the just as accessible yet darker edge that Oakey's former bandmates in the latter were peddling. As I say, this is easily one of the most important pop albums of all time, and a shoe-in for any collection as far as I'm concerned.

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Old 07-04-2010, 08:03 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Hey, I'm pretty new around here, but wanted to "pop" in and tell you how much I'm enjoying your work on this "pop" thread. I have to keep coming back again and again. Guess you could say addiction, but it is some of the best, most credible effort I've read. Thanks. I'll be popping back in --- The great thing about pop, which you are demonstrating very well, is the diversity of the genre - yet, it's universal appeal.
Keep Poppin'.
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Old 07-09-2010, 11:36 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
Television Personalities - And Don't the Kids Just Love It (1981)
[/CENTER]

Given the amount of albums they've released over their 30-odd year career in tandem with an insane amount of lineup changes, it wouldn't be pushing the envelope that much to call the Television Personalities here a kind of anti-Fall, what with singer Dan Treacy being the only constant member throughout the band's entire career. On the other hand, maybe it would be, as if truth be told the Television Personalities sound nothing much like the Fall, but it's nice to draw analogies eh. Truthfully, this album's about a million miles from what the Fall were doing at the time, seeing as it delves into twee pop as opposed to, say, grainy lo-fi garage rock and balls-to-the-wall post-punk.

So, yeah, you're looking at a much more commercially-viable proposition with this one, seeing as I'm mentioning it in the context of this thread. The crux of the whole thing is the light-hearted and playful vibe that dominates the album stylistically and conceptually - it's basically nothing that's going to take itself too seriously then. There are much more downbeat moments like Diary Of a Young Man, but such moments are very scarce indeed, as the emphasis is on an early indie rock sound which is designed to make you smile more than simply be blown away by some of the most amazing music you've ever heard. In that sense, while they're not quite as funny a bunch as Half Man Half Biscuit, the Television Personalities do succeed in making a very convincing, very uplifting and stripped-down album, boasting both the rhythmic energy of early Joy Division and that cross between the melodic prowess and energy that the Buzzcocks had at their finest. Great stuff then.

This Angry Silence is one of my favorite songs of all time.
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Old 06-25-2013, 09:15 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
Television Personalities - And Don't the Kids Just Love It (1981)
Sorry for the necro-bump. Just back-tracking through Bulldog's stuff and this caught my eye. Sounds good.
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Old 07-20-2013, 09:48 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Thanks for mentioning Idlewild, one of my favorite albums from the late 80s.

I don't think any other MB member has mentioned Saint Etienne, except for myself and you. I still think they're the best pop group of their generation. I love So Tough, Tiger Bay and Good Humor.
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Old 07-22-2013, 06:18 AM   #37 (permalink)
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Nice post! There's really nice information which i can use.. Thanks
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