Monday, December 19, 2005

My '80s Remastered - Beauty Stab

The year was 1983. Martin Fry and his band ABC have conquered the world with their debut album, 1982's The Lexicon Of Love. A magnificent set of eminently hummable tunes as produced by Trevor Horn, critics loved it and so did pop fans. Poison Arrow & The Look Of Love were on radios all over the world, even making a splash across the pond in the US. When the time came to record it's follow up the band had slimmed to a three piece - drummer David Palmer was gone, on his way to becoming a premier session player and member of the '90s version of The The. The resulting album was called Beauty Stab, and it was a sharp shocker for their fan base to hear. Instead of Lexicon Part 2 with big, danceable faux soul hits, they had made a ROCK record. Big guitars, loads and loads of them, spinning off mighty riffs all over the place. The spirit of Roxy Music's late '70s/early '80s art rock is alive here, even down to the tasty sax breaks. The songs are still very ABC - the sharp lyricism, the occasionally goofy rhyme, and the great, hooky melodies. I remember being taken aback the first few times I played it, but I stuck with it and have always enjoyed it's one-off craziness. My bro and I used to rock this sucker back in the day. It has just recieved the expanded remastered treatment, so I knew I had to get me one. It's sound has held up pretty well. Produced by the band and Trevor Horn's studio doppleganger Gary Langan, it largely eschews the bad, '80s gated snare thing and instead is a fairly tough set of well produced rock music. There are a couple of bonus tracks, including an odd medley of songs from the LP that was originally released on a flexi disc. As for the Roxy Music comparisons - Roxy's drummer Andy Newmark and bassist Alan Spenner are the rhythm section on this. I've always thought that this record was better than what it got - bad reviews and largely ignored. I had a hard time choosing one or two songs so I'm going with three. Title track Beauty Stab is an instrumental - very Roxy with it's dance-y yet rocking sound and sax riffing. A big tune. King Money is equally big in the riff department. This tune kind of makes me think of David Bowie's China Girl - some of the guitars are very Nile Rodgers in that chikka-chikka way. I especially like the big, hard rocking break and find myself playing the air guitar. One of the big hits was S.O.S., and this is the tune that is closest to resembling anything from Lexicon. It's a gorgeous ballad with sweet Fairlight keys, some nice basic drum programming and lots of orchestration - strings, brass and voices combine and lead to a swelling, big finale. A forgotten classic.

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