Eighties Comebacks in Review

The Eighties revival marches on. As well as influencing the likes of LaRoux and Hurts, the original articles are lining up to cash in on their product. March saw the release of three albums; comebacks in different ways.

First up is Duran Duran with All You Need Is Now. Superproducer, and űberfan, Mark Ronson’s aim was to produce the album that should have followed 1981’s Rio. The band themselves were trying to exorcise their last two albums, both commercial flops, and a further album that was shelved by their record company.  So, Duran Duran have had their own share of Strokes-style recording difficulties, and they needed an uncomplicated hit.

Ronson gave them one. All You Need Is Now has all the Duranie trademarks: carpet synth , rock guitar/funky slap-bass mix and sexy but ludicrous lyrics. After a false opening with the title track, the business proper starts with ‘Blame the Machine’, musically in debt to Kraftwerk but funkier. Other highlights are: ‘Being Followed,’ a somewhat guilt-laden criticism of surveillance; ‘Girl Panic’; ‘Before the Rain’; and the brilliant but deranged ‘The Man Who Stole a Leopard’. A return to their root New Romantic sound and their best album for years.

The Human League return with Credo, their first album since 2001s superb Secrets. Of the three bands, the League have changed least, and most of these tracks could easily have been recorded in the eighties. Some of this gets wearing – what could previously be considered a minimalist lyric, by lead singer Phil Oakey, is beginning to look just simplistic. In ‘Night People’ the chorus consists of the title repeated ad-infinitum, while the chorus of ‘Sky’(‘Life goes on / Now you’re gone / Life goes on/ after sky’) is so straightforward even Robbie Williams would have dismissed it as crass. That said, both tracks work musically, but others don’t. ‘Never Let Me Go’ foregrounds the worst of the Eighties – plodding electronic drums leading a robotic synth, lead vocals by Susan Tulley via an autotuner, and a mind-numbingly repetitive lyric. The most adventurous track is left until last. The beat on ‘When the Stars Start To Shine’ is updated, complex and fast, and the song has a number of different movements to it, including laddish chants. Not a bad album, but could be better.

Blancmange’s 26 year gap since their last album makes the League look irresponsibly prolific. Now  singer Neil Arthur and keyboard player Stephen Luscombe have released Blanc Burn, the band’s belated fourth album. With ‘I’m Having a Coffee’, Arthur barely sings but almost chants  ‘The fuse has bust on the plug on the telly/ There’s something strange at the bottom of the fridge’ against a haunting, alienating tune. ‘The Western’ has the familiar Indian/electro beat, but is far clubbier than their eighties fare. The highlight is ‘Don’t Forget Your Feet’ an infectious, but dark pop-song with a minimal lyric (‘minimal’, Phil Oakey, please note, because the other lyrics on  the album are not!) I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it resurface in a telly advert for sweets or a bank. Although there are some trademark aspects to this album (the Indian beats and Arthur’s gloomy lyrics), Blancmange have not really stuck to their Eighties roots. This is the most adventurous album of the three.

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