Various Artists - 80s Revolution: Disco Pop Vol 2
Other OK, I think the Brutal Resonance admin were having a laugh with this one. Here I was, expecting another worthy compilation of 80's-revival European synthpop bands, maybe a passable cover or two, and what do I get? A compilation of the original tunes! That might have been something of a dead-cert winner until you check the tracklisting and find most of the songs are the cheesier remnants of the later part of this highly influential decade. That's right, long after the era when synthesizers were considers 'new'. We're in the era when the ultra-polished production style initiated by Trevor Horn and perfected by Stock Aitken and Waterman was the 'in' thing.

But that's no bad thing on it's own, providing you like reverb-heavy drums, Yamaha synth presets and clean guitar. But I cannot forgive under any circumstances the presence of BROTHER BEYOND on this compilation. Sorry, but I thought they sounded crap when I was nine years old, and my opinion of them hasn't improved with time. They weren't even one of the boy bands with a modicum of musical respectability (I'm thinking of Wham! and Take That, both of whom had at least one talented musician in their line-ups). They only got in the charts thanks to EMI throwing a stack of cash into breaking them. And that's no reason to revive them here and now.

But let's be fair, there is still material of value on here, because this compilation focuses on dishing up the 'extended' remixes of songs, the ones they used to issue on 12-inch. This is bad news for the casual fan, who would want the short, pithy versions of the best songs to remind themselves of when they heard them on the radio, and they'd also want the short version of the worst songs, so they they'd be over more quickly. Collectors, meanwhile, might actually treasure these hard-to-find mixes. It's not like many of these songs stayed in print for long, as they rarely featured on albums.

Well, they would treasure them if any of these bands were collectible. Trouble is, most 80s collectors I know are busier hunting down obscure Depeche Mode maxi-singles from distant European countries and other rarities by bands that still mean something today. Of all the projects represented here, only OMD (with the poppy-by-their-standards 'Secrets') and Erasure (with a drawn-out remix of 'Oh L'Amour') still garner much respect round here.

There still are gems here worth unearthing. The Donna Summer cover "Hot Stuff" by 'The Boys From Brazil' does what every extended mix needs to do - introduce the catchy melodic bit early on and let the song itself keep the mix alive rather than resorting to gimmicky production trickery. The use of a Jimmy Somerville sound-alike (and I had to check his backcatalogue to make sure he wasn't actually guesting here) vocalist was a master stroke - you really need the octave range to make this song work.

Another welcome addition is the six-minute mix of Animotion's "Obsession". Of all the songs here, it's probably the best-known, and any song that appeared on the Wave 103 station (where the boys wear more make-up than the girls) in GTA:Vice city is OK by me. I'm also glad to acquire a version (any version) of Laid Back's 'High Society Girl', even if it is the "Long Dub Mix". Unlike many so called 'dub' remixes, this one has a decent proportion of the original lyrics and melodies intact, and is effectively a good, old-fashioned extended remix.

But once the best tracks are picked out, the quality drops off, with too many bands reliant on the classy production and sugary lyrics. Every now and again there's a beacon of hope - Go West's synthstring rocker "We Close Our Eyes" still works over the endurance distance, for example. The band I'd never thought I'd hear from again, 'Johnny Hates Jazz', makes an appearance with "I Don't Want To Be A Hero", but that groovy bassline moves from catchy to indifferent to irritating during the lengthy mix on offer here. And it's a problem apparent with many other mixes here - there's just not enough substance here to stretch the songs out for as long as they do.

And hence as a collection, I cannot recommend this compilations as a whole. Good as it was to hear certain songs in rarely-heard versions, there was just too much material that should have been left to rot in record company archive rooms. One CD with all the radio edits on would have been considerably more preferable to this earnest but ultimately misguided selection of extended-length indulgences. Of course, if you were obsessing over some these bands a quarter of a century ago, before you did the whole 'alternative' thing (or maybe as a guilty pleasure sideline), this collection might still bring back a lot of memories. Unfortunately for me, it was mainly all the bad ones.
2
Brutal Resonance

Various Artists - 80s Revolution: Disco Pop Vol 2

4.5
"Bad"
N/A
Electroracle
Released 2012 by Pokorny Music Solutions
OK, I think the Brutal Resonance admin were having a laugh with this one. Here I was, expecting another worthy compilation of 80's-revival European synthpop bands, maybe a passable cover or two, and what do I get? A compilation of the original tunes! That might have been something of a dead-cert winner until you check the tracklisting and find most of the songs are the cheesier remnants of the later part of this highly influential decade. That's right, long after the era when synthesizers were considers 'new'. We're in the era when the ultra-polished production style initiated by Trevor Horn and perfected by Stock Aitken and Waterman was the 'in' thing.

But that's no bad thing on it's own, providing you like reverb-heavy drums, Yamaha synth presets and clean guitar. But I cannot forgive under any circumstances the presence of BROTHER BEYOND on this compilation. Sorry, but I thought they sounded crap when I was nine years old, and my opinion of them hasn't improved with time. They weren't even one of the boy bands with a modicum of musical respectability (I'm thinking of Wham! and Take That, both of whom had at least one talented musician in their line-ups). They only got in the charts thanks to EMI throwing a stack of cash into breaking them. And that's no reason to revive them here and now.

But let's be fair, there is still material of value on here, because this compilation focuses on dishing up the 'extended' remixes of songs, the ones they used to issue on 12-inch. This is bad news for the casual fan, who would want the short, pithy versions of the best songs to remind themselves of when they heard them on the radio, and they'd also want the short version of the worst songs, so they they'd be over more quickly. Collectors, meanwhile, might actually treasure these hard-to-find mixes. It's not like many of these songs stayed in print for long, as they rarely featured on albums.

Well, they would treasure them if any of these bands were collectible. Trouble is, most 80s collectors I know are busier hunting down obscure Depeche Mode maxi-singles from distant European countries and other rarities by bands that still mean something today. Of all the projects represented here, only OMD (with the poppy-by-their-standards 'Secrets') and Erasure (with a drawn-out remix of 'Oh L'Amour') still garner much respect round here.

There still are gems here worth unearthing. The Donna Summer cover "Hot Stuff" by 'The Boys From Brazil' does what every extended mix needs to do - introduce the catchy melodic bit early on and let the song itself keep the mix alive rather than resorting to gimmicky production trickery. The use of a Jimmy Somerville sound-alike (and I had to check his backcatalogue to make sure he wasn't actually guesting here) vocalist was a master stroke - you really need the octave range to make this song work.

Another welcome addition is the six-minute mix of Animotion's "Obsession". Of all the songs here, it's probably the best-known, and any song that appeared on the Wave 103 station (where the boys wear more make-up than the girls) in GTA:Vice city is OK by me. I'm also glad to acquire a version (any version) of Laid Back's 'High Society Girl', even if it is the "Long Dub Mix". Unlike many so called 'dub' remixes, this one has a decent proportion of the original lyrics and melodies intact, and is effectively a good, old-fashioned extended remix.

But once the best tracks are picked out, the quality drops off, with too many bands reliant on the classy production and sugary lyrics. Every now and again there's a beacon of hope - Go West's synthstring rocker "We Close Our Eyes" still works over the endurance distance, for example. The band I'd never thought I'd hear from again, 'Johnny Hates Jazz', makes an appearance with "I Don't Want To Be A Hero", but that groovy bassline moves from catchy to indifferent to irritating during the lengthy mix on offer here. And it's a problem apparent with many other mixes here - there's just not enough substance here to stretch the songs out for as long as they do.

And hence as a collection, I cannot recommend this compilations as a whole. Good as it was to hear certain songs in rarely-heard versions, there was just too much material that should have been left to rot in record company archive rooms. One CD with all the radio edits on would have been considerably more preferable to this earnest but ultimately misguided selection of extended-length indulgences. Of course, if you were obsessing over some these bands a quarter of a century ago, before you did the whole 'alternative' thing (or maybe as a guilty pleasure sideline), this collection might still bring back a lot of memories. Unfortunately for me, it was mainly all the bad ones. Oct 26 2012

Various Artists

Various artists is used on compilation albums. A compilation album comprises tracks which are compiled from other recordings, either previously released or unreleased.

Jonny Hall

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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Grooves Inc

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Started in spring 2009, Brutal Resonance quickly grew from a Swedish based netzine into an established International zine of the highest standard.

We cover genres like Synthpop, EBM, Industrial, Dark Ambient, Neofolk, Darkwave, Noise and all their sub- and similar genres.

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