Thursday, September 21, 2006

My '80s Remastered - Penthouse And Pavement

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When Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh left the Human League in 1980 I was very curious about what their next move would be. I was and still am a huge fan of the League - the early, experimental records and the post-split pop successes. When Heaven 17 released their debut 45 I was there. Called (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thing, it was a stomping , militaristic beat topped off with poppin' bass and scratchy guitar parts, some smoky sax, and some very political lyrics that addressed the rise of Ronald Reagan and the conservatives in the US. In Glenn Gregory the duo had found a voice that was similar to Phil Oakey, yet distinctive in it's own way. In John Wilson they had a young and upcoming talent who played the killer bass and guitar parts. The debut album, 1981's Penthouse And Pavement dropped around the same time as their old bandmates' new record. That album was called Dare and it's hit singles pretty much overshadowed everything, including Heaven 17. I personally loved both albums, and even though Dare might have gotten a few more plays, Penthouse And Pavement was right up there. This being it's 25th anniversary it has been given the remastered and expanded treatment, and includes five extra tracks. Divided into two sides, side A (Penthouse) is slick, Linn drum driven electro-funk and pop, with a barrage of singles - the title track, Play To Win and Fascist Groove Thang - coming one after another until you get to the last track, Soul Warfare. I have always loved this tune. It starts out with some clappy beats, adds some seriously fresh bass (including some wicked soloing down the end stretch), tops it all off with cooler than cool piano vamping and watery FX and Glenn's baritone. Fantastic. Side B (Pavement) is the more experimental, harder edged electronic music - the stuff that sounds like the old League records. The bonus tracks are a couple of instrumental tunes from alter egos B.E.F. (including the ace instr. version of Groove Thang), and 12" versions of the single I'm Your Money and it's b-side, Are Everything (12" Version). This is a Pete Shelley/Buzzcocks tune, and when I bought the original 45 this song got played as much as the A side did - something about the beats and the acoustic strum. A welcome reissue that still hits all the right notes for me...

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