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You can never go over-the-top enough!,
This review is from: The Lexicon Of Love (Audio CD)
The New Romantic movement gave us many memorable artists, but perhaps none left as stylish and indelible a mark as Sheffield's ABC. The band first hit the U.K. charts with "Tears Are Not Enough" on their own Neutron label. Interest in the single lands them a deal with a major label and Trevor Horn (Yes, Art of Noise) agrees to produce their first full length recording. The end result "Lexicon of Love" is one of the quintessential New Romantic recordings. A lush paean to love it summons echoes of Roxy Music, but at the same was very original and unique. Fronted by vocalist extraordinaire Martin Fry the crack four man group was ably augmented by Horn's studio wizardry. Equal parts intelligence, flamboyance and swagger Fry commands the show and his lyrics reflect a mixture of ecstasy and agony, treachery and regret, irony and sorrow. Hearing the original demo of "Tears..." you can hear the genesis of what would evolve under the benevolent tutelage of Trevor Horn. Who made who is obvious.
The curtain lifts on with the dramatic opener "Show Me" with Fry soaring to a wonderful falsetto at points amid a lush orchestrated backdrop, the perfect set up for "Poison Arrow," perhaps one of their best tracks. The video of "Poison Arrow" is perhaps most indelibly etched in people's memories for the band in white ties and Martin cavorting in the infamous gold lamé suit with an 80s beauty. On the pulsating track the wonderful Tessa Niles plays vocal foil to Martin who posits "I thought you loved me, but it seems you don't care" to which Tessa counters "I care enough to know I can never love you" to a crescendo of drums. The song is absolute ecstasy and my all-time favorite. "Many Happy Returns" starts off with a spoken into and then rapidly picks up tempo and actually points the direction ABC would go with the following release "Beauty Stab." Fry's lyrics and the raw emotionalism of the song is quite striking and it gives yet another chance to show off his astonishing falsetto. "Many Happy Returns" glides into the rambunctious "Tears Are Not Enough" which kicks off with Martin's highest falsetto. The track crackles with life recalling Haircut 100 (a contemporary New Romantic band) with its lively horns and prominent bass line. While it bears a passing resemblance to the demo version it's clear that Trevor Horn is the mastermind pumping life and energy into the recording. Heavy strings and glockenspiel (or is it fairlight?) open "Valentines Day" with Martin pushing his vocals to their very limits building to a crescendo where Martin implies "I'd be a Millionaire; I'd be a Fred Astaire." There's nowhere to go but the first single that broke ABC in the USA, "Look of Love (Part One)" which summons up images of the dapper band from their music video. Vocally this is a showcase for Martin's full range, from low spoken asides and growls up to his falsetto. Musically its ABCs absolute zenith with full orchestration and once its over its hard to imagine where you could go from such ecstasy, but there's more cards up Martin's sleeve. "Date Stamp" is pure Trevor at the intro pointing at things to come for Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Propaganda, and others. Martin and Tessa heat things up in what is practically a duet against a thumping bass line. What follows is perhaps one of my favorite track "All of My Heart" a profoundly felt song on love, loss, and regret reflected in Martin's vulnerable and heartfelt vocals. For me the recording could and should have ended here as there's no way you could top the sentiments and raw emotionality in "All of My Heart." Recalling not so much "Manifesto" or "Flesh and Blood" era Roxy Music as it does "Avalon" it would be the obvious direction for ABC to continue. Instead things resume with "4 Ever 2 Gether" a slight tune with a rather creepy intro and eerie backing track that hints somewhat at where they would go with "Beauty Stab." The rather fitting coda to it all is the closing blast of "Look of Love (Part Four)." The original recording had "Look of Love (Part Two)" which is not included here, but "Theme From Mantrap," a track from their spy movie/accompanying full length video (on VHS and Laserdisc). Thematically "Mantrap" fits in with the rest of the tracks, and many of the tracks on "Lexicon..." were used in "Mantrap."
ABC epitomized everything great about the New Romantics and this recording perfectly encapsulates 1982 and that era. ABC were on the cutting edge with sumptuous videos and sterling production. From "Lexicon..." they moved to the perceived misstep of "Beauty Stab" from which they would recover. "Lexicon..." has nary a dull track and will have you enthralled from start to finish. A must for any fan of 80s or New Romantic music!