19 April 2013

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Welcome To The Pleasuredome

The first time I ever heard of Frankie Goes To Hollywood was when I was 10 and played their video game on Amstrad CPC. Hearing an 8-BIT soundchip version of 'Two Tribes' was...interesting. I didn't hear any of their music for a while, but when I did, I enjoyed it. But that was just the singles. I'd yet to hear the album...

First off, I'm not all for attacking popular culture and icons. However - I feel the need to talk about this album because whenever someone releases a "Best Of The 80's" compilation, there is ALWAYS a FGTH song on there (Usually 'Relax' or 'The Power Of Love'). It leads people into the misconception that the 80's were some kind of musical Mecca, a shangri-la where there was no bad music. As we know, that's NOT the case but then, people hold this band up as an example. Sorry but - here goes - off this album, Frankie had FOUR decent songs. Their success was built on a foundation of controversy as well as building up their own sense of self-importance.

It all started in 1984 when they released the song 'Relax'. On the surface, it was a nice little dance number with slightly provocative lyrics. Upon getting the jist of the lyrics, then-Radio 1 DJ Mike Reid (NOT the guy off Eastenders) stopped playing the song whilst on-air and promptly banned it. This then created controversy which the band took to like a duck to water. T-shirts followed (The iconic FRANKIE SAYS shirts) as did a couple of other songs. "Two Tribes" with it's story of the arms race between USA and then-USSR had a video which featured the Presidents of the USA (Ronald Reagan) and USSR (Konstantin Chernenko) knocking bells out of each other "Fight Club"-style while the rest of the world watched - then joined in. "The Power Of Love" video was the nativity which is why that song ended up on a few Christmas albums even though the song itself isn't actually about Christmas. It also had the band members in drag which caused a kick-off as well.

So basically, you've got all this going on which brings us to the album itself. What a let-down. The singles were included, naturally - but remixed versions. This in itself wouldn't have been too bad but they were seriously lacking in what had made them so good in the first place! The title track was released as a single with an ad campaign that proclaimed it "Their 4th number one" (The first three songs got to number one) but it got as high as number two. Probably because it was THIRTEEN MINUTES LONG when it didn't need to be! The version for the music video was 4-5 minutes long and much better for it! The lyrics itself were inspired by a poem called 'Kubla Khan' that Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote (Whilst high on opium) and that's where we get to the problem - the whole album is full of delusions of grandeur, inflated by it's own sense of self importance. It insists it's the most important, relevant, daring and cutting-edge album ever when all it is, is a bunch of new-wave Scousers who've read a few posh books and like a bit of disco as well. In fact, the album is more of a showcase for producer Trevor Horn who does do a stellar production job, all synths and strings but it's definately an album that is a case of style over substance. I ended up buying The Singles Collection as it has superior versions of songs on this album (It also has the stuff off the second album - 'Liverpool' - which serves as adverts on why NOT to buy it).

2/10 - If only there was some quality control.

Chris J.

You can buy this album on iTunes. The Amazon link has been down for an hour. See?

You can purchase from Amazon here

You can listen to the deluxe version of the album on Spotify here

Or you can listen to the original one via this link

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