Themes From Great Cities

It might have come to your attention that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you will just have to get used to. I will however, have bursts of creativity where I move completely randomly from post to post with no rhyme or reason. I have recently posted a few singles (7 & 12”) and the odd bootleg which have been received very well by all who visit. More of the same will continue as you, dear readers, seem to be enjoying them.

Some of the rips are my own, but many more are from other blogs and I’m just sharing the wealth. If other bloggers out there wish to share the rips from my posts, please as I do, host them yourself. To combat this, the FLAC files that are over 6 months old will be replaced with MP3 files.

Finally I am happy to re-up old posts where the link has expired. Please comment in the relevant posts comments box.

Saturday

Feasting At Dawn

A quick Re-Boot of an absolute classic.

Recorded in Hawaii between Banshees activities, Feast lives up to its surroundings -- at least the way most people want to imagine it -- as a lush, tropical experience. Almost a tribute to the exotica of acts like Martin Denny but well before the cloying rush of mid-'90s hype around such items, Feast is just that, a chance for the duo to marry Sioux's often cutting lyrics to a different musical brew. Waves crashing on beaches, found-sound effects from nature, and on three cuts the backing vocals of a hula academy's chanters add to the dreamy, mysterious flow of the album. Long-time Banshees producer Mike Hedges assists once again with the proceedings, helping to carry over the dark undertow of the main group to the duo's work here. Budgie varies the more frenetic drum assaults found on Wild Things in favour of a variety of speeds and tempos, but always with a crackling energy, whether low-key and tense or more outwardly rollicking. Sioux's singing succeeds as well as her work in the Banshees, her strong, instantly recognizable voice and lyrics often draped with a gentle reverb that increases the hazy, narcotic feeling of the album. "Miss the Girl," the concise number chosen as a single from the album, has a brisk, catchy feeling to it that avoids straightforward pop for the Creatures' own stripped-down, unexpected approach. Other strong cuts are "Dancing on Glass," a shuddering combination of drum and handclaps that achieves an almost ritualistic groove; the playful, gentler "Gecko"; and "A Strutting Rooster," a strong, rumbling number with one of Sioux's best performances. The backing choir gets an individual chance to shine on "Inoa'Ole," their interwoven voices blending into evocative drones and whines as well as Budgie's slow, forceful percussion and Sioux's own wordless chants.

Thursday

Rest In Peace



“Rest In Peace” is a faithful recording of Bauhaus' last concert, played at the Hammersmith Palais in London on July 5, 1983, one week prior to the official release of Burning From The Inside and fifteen years before all four members would play together again. The show itself, although captured on tape, remained in the vaults for almost a decade, before it was finally released on two CDs in 1992; and the appropriate title “Rest In Peace” actually reproduces the words of David J, spoken at the very end of the show, once the final echoes of ʽBela Lugosiʼ have died down: most of the fans present, unaware of the band's suicidal plans, never figured out what that properly meant until it was too late. The large delay between recording and release is understandable: first, it seemed pointless at the time to put out two live albums in such a brief time interval, and second, the sound quality is highly questionable almost as if they were taping this as a personal memento rather than a potential commercial product or even historical document. Studio or live, Bauhaus is one of those bands that draws its power from atmosphere and sonic nuances rather than particular chord changes, so listening to a poor-sound-quality Bauhaus album falls in the same category as watching a black-and-white version of Snow White. For those who still have all the hits ringing and reverberating in their ears, subconscious will do the trick and restore the missing colours, but God forbid you ever fall upon “Rest In Peace” as your introduction to the band.

Saturday

Aisha



Another quick change, when posting 7” and 12” singles and EP’s you’ll be left to your own devices as to the style, content, or special features involved with that release. A significant number have been scoured from the interweb as I can’t be arsed at the moment to rip them myself so don’t complain if there’s noise, skips or pops…that’s the way it is until another version is found.
Finally, this is a fuckin’ (no G) awesome song from Death In Vegas featuring The Incredible Mr Iggy Pop on vocals.

Friday

Heartbeat




So, it’s been a week or so (I haven’t been counting) and now I’m back. I hadn’t really gone away, I was taking a break and considering that posting on a daily basis is difficult to keep fresh. I follow a number of blogs where their reason to exist is simply to allow access to a download. I’d rather be involved with a community of people where there is time for communication. If you’re reading this then I hope that you are interested in community as well.
I’ll be trying to post 3 times a week to give folks a chance to say Hello…use it!
 


Chris & Cosey is the work of Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti, a couple best known as two of the founding members of pioneering industrial act Throbbing Gristle who disbanded in 1981. Post-breakup Chris & Cosey continued working with artists from the scene with Cosey's own form of Dadaist performance art.  Forming their own project known as Chris & Cosey, Heartbeat is their first release, which came out the same year. The album bridges some of the earlier industrial sounds of Throbbing Gristle with a focus on synthpop. Heartbeat really should be considered a synthpop masterpiece. However, it’s one with a slightly darker heart than most, given the background of the two people behind it, it’s not that surprising. Heartbeat is a great little album, a bit of a hidden gem for the industrial fans that is often glanced over. Whilst it lends itself more towards the realms of synthpop, its sound experiments and analogue drum machines are far from one dimensional and interesting enough to warrant a number of listens. Put Yourself In Los Angeles is something that needs to be heard, at the very least.

Saturday

Spleen And Ideal



With this amazing album, Dead Can Dance fully took the plunge into the heady mix of musical traditions that would come to define its sound and style for the remainder of its career. The straightforward goth affectations are exchanged for a sonic palette and range of imagination. Calling it "haunting" and "atmospheric" barely scratches even the initial surface of the album's power. The common identification of the duo with a consciously medieval European sound starts here -- quite understandable, when one considers the mystic titles of songs, references to Latin, choirs, and other touches that make the album sound like it was recorded in an immense cathedral. Opening number "De Profundis" sets this mood so thoroughly, with bells and drones and more supporting another bravura performance from Gerrard, while the immediately following "Ascension" builds on this initial effort with further style and grace. It's limiting to think of either album or band strictly in terms of simple revivalism of old music. While the elements being drawn on are certainly of an older range, the results owe as much to the technologies of arrangement and production and a consciously cinematic feeling as much as they do antique pasts. Similarly, the feeling is not simply European but worldwide, with Gerrard's glossolalia intentionally reaching beyond easy understanding. Perry's vocal efforts are no less compelling, his own high point occurring with the vast-sounding "Enigma of the Absolute," as a steady, massive drum pound echoes behind a similarly treated guitar/harpsichord combination, tinged with a striking string arrangement. The overall feeling is of an ancient religious service suddenly brought to life in a truly modern way, with stunning results.

Friday

The Story So Far



Compiled to celebrate Divine's early catalogue of dance hits, and includes many Hi-NRG favourites from the early to mid-80s, The Story So Far was his most successful LP on both sides of the Atlantic. The album includes the songs "You Think You're A Man" "Native Love", "Shoot Your Shot", "Shake It Up" and "Love Reaction". Divine's earliest hits were produced by Bobby "O" (Orlando), and later the team of Stock Aitken and Waterman (of Dead Or Alive fame) wrote and produced the hefty chanteuse. The tracks on this collection are energetic if slightly un-imaginative, but such is the nature of 80's Hi-NRG dance music. "Shoot Your Shot" and "Native Love" were fair-sized hits for Divine, and have enough double-entendres to keep camp fans and dancers happy. 

Thursday

This Is Madness



If not quite as remarkable as the band's gripping self-titled debut, What's THIS For...! showed that Killing Joke could maintain their frenetic, doom-wracked intensity while experimenting with their already strongly established style. Jaz Coleman's vocals go through even more treatments and tweaks than before, chorus shout-alongs swathed in deep echoes, hidden behind Geordie Walker's punishing riffs and the steroid-driven rhythm section. Big Paul Ferguson in particular lays down some absolutely skull-crushing drum slams and Youth is no less intense at most parts, and often they rather than Coleman or Geordie dictate the song, as the lengthy death-groove of "Madness" makes perfectly clear. Elsewhere Geordie shows a calmer (comparatively) side, soloing on songs like "Butcher" making common cause with the guitar work of Bernard Sumner in Joy Division days -- indeed, the song as a whole could almost be a tribute to that band, and one of the better ones at that. The playing around with supposed genre boundaries doesn't hurt either -- the beatbox/synth loop pulse of "Follow the Leaders," crossed with the more brusque blasts from the core band, suggests its eventual path in later years, while "Tension" lets the slithering funk heart of the band burst forth even more strongly. (The drums and opening riffs themselves almost sound like a parody of the Knack's "My Sharona.") "Unspeakable" is arguably the hidden highlight of the album, Coleman's heavily flanged, distorted singing sliding down a slowly descending chord pattern that suggests an early glam band gone martial and paranoid, Ferguson all over his set like four people at once. The debts of later bands toward Killing Joke are even clearer than ever, whether it's the fact a group named themselves after the opening track, "The Fall of Because," or that late-'80s Ministry so effectively cloned the whole style on songs like "Burning Inside."

Wednesday

Bootlegged Banshees Now In MP3



Picked up from 100 Greatest Bootlegs
Siouxsie And The Banshees; De Nieuwe Kade, Tiel, Holland. Date: July 7th 1981

basement67 notes:
Siouxsie And The Banshees released ‘Ju Ju’ their fourth album on June 6, 1981, a record now bestowed with classic status - like their other percussion heavy release, the 1978 debut ‘The Scream’.
The Ju Ju tour was the first and only time that I saw the Banshees, I had been interested in the group since 1977, after hearing the session they recorded for BBC Radio One, broadcast on the John Peel show. Siouxsie & The Banshees were often described at that time, as the best unsigned group in London and it would not be until 1978, that they were taken on by Polydor records.
The European tour began on June 14th 1981 in Brussels, and ran to the end of the summer before the group flew to North America for dates throughout October and November.
This Dutch FM broadcast is an upgrade taken from a master source and includes Happy House which had not been previously available. It features seven live versions of tracks that appear on ‘Ju Ju’, only missing ‘Into The Light’ and ‘Monitor’ (the latter performed but not broadcast as were ‘Christine’ and ‘Red Light’). ‘But Not Them’ was a new track played live by the Banshees in concert, it had been written by the ‘Creatures’ after the Ju Ju sessions and the song would be eventually released on their Wild Things EP in September 1981.
This is a superb recording; the clarity highlights the extraordinary and unique guitar playing of John McGough. High-class audio equipment has been used, it is hiss free and doesn’t sound compressed. Few recordings of this quality circulate from the early eighties and although I may be slightly biased having seen the band on this tour, this is my favourite Banshees recording from this time (1980-81).

Tuesday

Planet Earth



Beginning with "Planet Earth", Duran Duran began creating what they called "night versions" for each of their early singles; extended versions that were featured on their 12-inch singles. Back in 1981, the technology to do extended remixes was still quite rudimentary, so the band chose instead to create a new arrangement of the song, loosely based on the version they were playing live at the time. This formed the basis for the "night version".

What more can I say except that I still love this! If you want to come outside and watch the nightfall with the rain…bring a mack

Monday

The Decline Of British Sea Power



The first two songs on British Sea Power's remarkable 2003 debut The Decline of British Sea Power, "Men Together Today" and "Apologies to Insect Life," come crashing out of the gate with such a wealth of frantic, chaotic, over the top energy that it comes as something of a surprise when the album shifts into contemplative, more atmospheric form a few tracks down the line. While some bands are eager to create a distinct and lasting image of themselves on their first album, British Sea Power seemed determined to jump from one mood to another, confounding expectations before they had a chance to take root, and if The Decline of British Sea Power is an album possessed by multiple personalities, all of them are compelling and have fascinating stories to tell. "Remember Me" and "Favours in the Beetroot Fields" are dominated by Martin Noble's scrappy, all-over-the-road electric guitar and Scott Wilkinson's breathless vocals, but "Something Wicked" shifts gears into a bigger, grander sound that lives up to the majestic tone of the band's name, and "The Lonely" and "Carrion" are brilliantly crafted, cinematic pop constructed on the grand scale and full of resonant emotions. And the penultimate track, "Lately," is a 14-minute epic that sails from evocative beauty past a valley of noise and havoc into a final squall of madness, in many ways an ideal summation of British Sea Power's strategy on this album. But for a first public gesture, The Decline of British Sea Power is tremendously powerful, and the band is more than up to the challenge of its vast creative ambitions; Scott Wilkinson is a singer of no small talent and range (and his lyrics are clever and often blazingly eccentric in the great British tradition), his brother Neil Hamilton Wilkinson and Martin Noble are multi-instrumentalists with both the skills and the vision to conjure this album's vast sonic palette, and drummer Matthew Wood is strong enough to hold the many pieces firmly in place. The Decline of British Sea Power is a wild musical ride that never stops delivering surprises and rare pleasures, and it was a fittingly remarkable debut from what would become one of the most interesting U.K. acts of their day.

Sunday

Even Serpents Shine



Plenty of bands from the first wave of British punk sounded like they had learned a few things from the New York Dolls, but while most latched onto the sloppy crash and bash of Johnny Thunders' guitar, the Only Ones instead seemed more closely drawn to the witty cynicism and trashy romanticism of David Johansen's lyrics, and the Only Ones' tenuous link to the faster-and-louder gang was fading fast by the time they cut their second album, Even Serpents Shine. While there's plenty of rock & roll on Even Serpents Shine, "Programme" is the only track that seems to approach four-square punk, and with its double-tracked guitar solos, sax overdubs, and backwards tape treatments it didn't have much in common with, say, the Damned or the Adverts. Elsewhere, Even Serpents Shine more often recalls the heart-on-the-sleeve spirit of Mott the Hoople's glory days, merged with a leaner attack that still made room for John Perry's guitar heroics and Peter Perrett's wobbly but potently effective vocals. Even Serpents Shine doesn't boast an out-of-the-box classic tune along the lines of "Another Girl, Another Planet" from the self-titled debut, but in many respects, this is the more consistent album, achieving a similar degree of thematic and melodic variety while generating a more coherent sound and feeling, and the band certainly sounds tighter and more confident on their second trip to the studio. And Peter Perrett's meditations on love in its many guises still stand apart from nearly anyone else's in British rock, and the funny, keenly observed and sometimes heart-breaking lyrics he wrote for this album are every bit as effective now as they were in 1979. Even Serpents Shine may not be quite the triumph that was the Only Ones' debut album, but they were one of the very few bands of their time and place who inarguably beat the sophomore slump.


Saturday

Wild Planet



Conventional wisdom has it that all the B-52's' subsequent releases are highly inferior to their debut. While Wild Planet is not the rarefied wonder their first platter is, it's still darn good. The songs here are generally faster, tighter, and punchier than previously, though production values are not as wonderfully quirky and detailed; fewer songs here are as over-the-top crazy as the first album's "Rock Lobster" or "52 Girls." These formless selections continue to exhibit a cunning mix of girl group, garage band, surf, and television theme song influences, all propelled along by an itchy dance beat. "Give Me Back My Man" allows Cindy Wilson a unique opportunity to croon a broad, expressive melodic line. Fred Schneider parades his inimitably nervous vocals on chucklesome ditties like "Quiche Lorraine" and "Strobe Light." The best songs here are "Private Idaho," a wonderfully jittery number that employs a variant on the famous melodic snippet from the Twilight Zone theme music, and "Devil in My Car," a delightfully loopy hoot that lays the craziness on very thickly. Performances and sound quality are fine. This album is well worth hearing and recommended.

Friday

You’re Homosapien Too



Cool tune, but no upright-walking creature with opposable thumbs needs to dance to the entire "Elongated" version.

Pete Shelley’s opening gambit on his solo music career was off to a good start anywhere else in the world except the UK. The Beeb banned the single for is explicit reference to gay sex! Comon, it’s 1981 and the world hadn’t changed all that much from the Dark Ages. Written before Buzzcocks became sentient Homosapien became one of the biggest club hits of the year in America and Europe, with a decent showing down under to boot. Coming after the final Buzzcocks album ‘A Different Kind Of Tension’ Pete and producer Martin Rushant settled into London's Genetic studios to demo some new material and something unexpected happened. Pete and Martin fell in love with the cheesier, one-man-and-a-boop-beep-boop drum machine demos in a time when electro-pop disco was taking over. Tired of Buzzcock's sorry financial state, Pete abruptly disbanded the band via an insensitive lawyers' letter mailed to his bandmates. Homosapien's release followed a few months later, before his fans' shock had dissipated. It can now be listened to in a different light than the inconsolably sad emotions that originally surrounded it. Despite the utterly ridiculous, aforementioned "drum" sound, the album Homosapien is one Pete Shelley solo effort worth investigating.

Thursday

Another Music…



General judgment holds the Buzzcocks' peerless singles, the definition of punk-pop at its finest, as the best expression of their work. However, while the singles showcased one particular side of the band, albums like the group's long-playing debut Another Music showcased the foursome's other influences, sometimes brilliantly. The big secret is Shelley's worship of Krautrock's obsessive focus on repetition and rhythm, which transforms what would be "simply" basic punk songs into at-times monstrous epics. The ghost of Can particular hovers even on some of the shorter songs; unsurprising really, given Shelley's worship of that band's guitarist Michael Karoli. "Moving Away From the Pulsebeat" is the best instance of this, with a rumbling Maher rhythm supporting some trancelike guitar lines. As for the sheer rush of pop craziness, Another Music is simply crammed with stellar examples. Lead-off track "Fast Cars" starts with the opening of Spiral Scratch's "Boredom"'s intentionally hilarious two-note solo intact, before ripping into a slightly bemusing critique of the objects in question. Most of the similar tracks on the album may be more distinct for their speed, but Shelley in particular always seems to sneak in at least one astonishing line per song, sometimes on his own and sometimes thanks to Devoto via older co-written tunes redone for the record. One favourite standout: "All this slurping and sucking -- it's putting me off my food!" on "You Tear Me Up." Top all this off with any number of perfect moments -- the guitar work during the breaks on "Love Battery," the energizing yet nervous coda of "Fiction Romance," the soaring angst throughout "I Don't Mind" -- and Another Music flat out succeeds.

Wednesday

Do You Dream Of Electric Sheep?



Can it really be almost 40 years since Gary Numan led Tubeway Army over the top, out of the trenches and into the no-man's land of post-punk electronica? Apparently it can. Numan played everything, bar bass and drums, on Replicas only recruiting his Army when he was ready to advance into touring. The shock and awe generated by the second single from this album (Are 'Friends' Electric?) was only reinforced by his part-robot, part-Bowie-as-alien image. Rapidly accumulating sufficient technology and self-confidence to eventually go solo, Numan went on to blitz the album charts and invade stadiums around the world for half the next decade.
Replicas was the second album by the band, Tubeway Army, though by this point it was Numan who was the focus; going solo following the success of this album. He helped spearhead the liberation of synthesiser music from hideous mistreatment in the gulag of deadly serious progressive rock. Using early Ultravox and Bowie and Eno's Low as his touchstones he achieved commercial recognition while maintaining the icy dislocation, key to the sci-fi 'machine' phase of the Ashford boy's career. Filled with songs that would withstand the ravages of time and remain in Numan's setlist for years such as Me! I Disconnect From You and Down In The Park, the album, amazingly, still sounds fresh today.
A lot of this has to do with the current trend of all things analog and old-style. The fat, warm synth tones are employed (along with early drum machines - another cool modern trope) to great effect here, allowing Numan's bleat to ride simple yet effective tunes. Numan's dystopian vision was responsible for a host of Marilyn Mansun-type sins. Yet that would be like blaming Black Sabbath for all the rubbish metal that followed in their wake. And like Sabbath the original material is still as doomily brilliant as ever. Replicas may not be the most sophisticated end of electronica, but its very simplicity makes it as timeless as hell. Numan’s career underwent a nosedive in the '80s yet it appears that after years of being the butt of so many jokes, Gary is having the last laugh.

Tuesday

Monday Blues, On A Tuesday



New Order’s first four singles accomplish as much as most bands do in their entire careers, which is to find their sound and make it work. This was where the energetic hustle and excited riffing of certain Joy Division songs turned over into the "happier" major-key gut-stirring stuff that makes New Order anthems so lovable: Vocals have shifted from dour, gruff Ian to starry-eyed Bernard, Gillian has come in on keyboards, and by the time you get to the 7" version of "Temptation" the whole thing has coalesced into the cruising, casual, hook-filled style that would sustain the band's pretty-great albums for years to come. (And not just them: the guitar and bass sounds here are the basic DNA at the core of a massive chunk of indie.) The not-very-good single from this period, in fact, is "Everything's Gone Green", in which the band discovers a) Computer-based sequencers, and b) Almost the exact vocal line from "Blue Monday", and stumble their way through an awkward dry run; for a second, they were actually doing better not trying anything new.
Then they embraced dance music: the drum machines and sequencers, the extended 12" mixes, the single as something totally distinct from the album version, the iconic "Blue Monday". Given how successful all that stuff turned out (you probably hear "Blue Monday" more than "Dancing Queen") it's tempting to think this is the part where New Order start aiming their singles the Pop Way. The truth, though, is possibly the other way around. Geeking out on computer music, Italian disco, and Kraftwerk, collaborating with NYC dance producers like Arthur Baker: This stuff was New Order abandoning a working formula to follow their own muse, one exploratory enough that it was probably more likely to lead them to the punks-gone-dance obscurity of A Certain Ratio than the dance-pop stardom of Duran Duran. And yet, and yet: "Blue Monday" became the best-selling British 12" single.

Monday

Fall In Love With Japan



Quiet Life became a springboard to send Japan into radically bold new territory. The album followed its two predecessors in garnering very little interest in the UK, but Sylvian’s beautiful features, tight-fitting suits and elegant quiff had helped make them stars in the country that gave them their name.
The synthesizer fervour that gripped Britain in the wake of Kraftwerk and The Human League’s late-seventies output was particularly beneficial to Japan, who, seemingly overnight, ditched the platform boots and wild hair, refined their make-up, slowed down their sound to take in swirly synth textures and loping fretless bass, and emerged in 1979 with Quiet Life, an album that pushed the elegant, improbably-coiffed Sylvian into the limelight, aided and abetted by some of the band’s best songs, such as the pleasingly camp title track, the driving 'Fall In Love With Me', the ice-cold 'Despair' and a delightfully rigid take on the Velvet Underground classic 'All Tomorrow’s Parties'. Quiet Life deserves to be placed alongside Travelogue, Mix-Up and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark as one of the key early British synth-based pop/rock albums, as it defined a very European form of detached, sexually-ambiguous and thoughtful art-pop, one not too dissimilar to what the ever-prescient David Bowie had delivered two years earlier with Low.

Sunday

Knock, Knock



If one compares Door, Door to later albums made by these soon-to-be-infamous Aussies (albums released under the Birthday Party moniker) it sounds fairly tame and relatively straightforward. But that's not to say there's anything wrong with it. In fact, it's a frantic, edgy, and surprisingly catchy piece of post-punk mayhem; just don't expect anything as original or downright disturbing as "Big-Jesus-Trash-Can" or "Zoo-Music Girl." The album starts out in high gear with "The Nightwatchman," replete with ringing guitar figures, a boppy punk-pop chorus (yes, those are "ooh-ooh-ooh-oohs" you're hearing), and dirty sax lines. Sax pops up on "Brave Exhibitions" as well, providing a meaty partner to the lead guitar on circular, descending scales that bring some weirdness to a straight-up rocker. Things begin to get slightly more strange and troubled as the record plays on: "The Voice" and "Somebody's Watching" are filled with a paranoid mania and creepy, memorable musical phrases that make them two of Door, Door's highlights. (The lead guitar parts in the latter song make it seem as if Rowland Howard spent time listening to Television at the wrong speed.) And "Roman Roman" is a frenzied schoolyard chant that hints at some of the anarchic pandemonium the group could create on-stage. It's impressive how, even at this early stage, Nick Cave was a confident and unique singer, perfectly aware of the strengths and limitations of his voice; although he's not much for range, he knows how to come across in a scary and theatrical manner that perfectly complements the music. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the band's closing, mournful ballad, "Shivers," an unashamedly melodramatic example of post-adolescent anguish.

Saturday

The Cure In Session 1978



I’m not going to elaborate on this, as we’ve already been acquainted with Bob and the boys Peel sessions, but I found the first Peel session 12” tucked away in a folder of a folder in funky FLAC.
So, in the finest tradition of bloggers the world over, enjoy.

Friday

Love Is A Stranger



The duo of Scottish singer Annie Lennox and English multi-instrumentalist Dave Stewart, a.k.a. Eurythmics, was arguably one of the most important bands of the '80s. The pair first met in 1975, became a couple, and formed a band called The Catch which eventually evolved into The Tourists. Problems within that band caused it to dissolve after 1980's Luminous Basement, but although they were no longer romantically involved, Lennox and Stewart decided to continue on as a musical team. Their first album together, 1981's In the Garden, wasn't commercially successful. However, their next album, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) put them over the top, reaching No. 3 on the British charts and No. 16 in the U.S. The title track for the album became a huge international hit single, reaching No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 2 in Britain, while the video for the song received heavy airplay on MTV.
So what made this album such a success? I think it's a variety of factors. The most obvious, of course, is Lennox. Since the ascendancy of Eurythmics, she's become larger than life, both for her powerful R&B voice and her striking image. Then there is Stewart. After the guitar gods who dominated rock music in the '70s, music fans were looking for something different. Stewart was one of a number of '80s musicians with the talent and creativity to give it to them. Synthesizers were certainly in use by some rock bands in the '70s, but the music of people like Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman tended to be grand and sweeping. Listening to Sweet Dreams, you find that Stewart is using them in a completely different way. They're chunkier, more textured, and more pop-friendly. Unlike most of the synthesists of the previous decade, Stewart is as much a computer programmer as a musician.
There's also a touch of darkness to the music of Sweet Dreams, just a taste of danger. The synthesizer loops throughout the various songs are ominous, and sometimes murky. But it's all in good fun. With the possible exception of the poor orange-haired, green-eyed title character of "Jennifer", who winds up "underneath the water," (Is she a sea nymph? Or a drowning victim? We'll never know for sure) most of the more dangerous emotions are expressed with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Throughout the album, Lennox tries on characters and personas the way an excited child who is set loose in the costume department of a large theatre might try on costumes.