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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bronski Beat - The Age of Consent

Name: Bronski Beat
Album: The Age Of Consent
Year: 1984
Style: Electro New Wave
Similar Bands: Eurythmics, Erasure, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Yaz, New Order
"One-Word" Review: Out-And-Proud Sad-Pop
Based Out Of: London, England
Label: London Records Ltd., MCA, 

The Age Of Consent Cover & Insert

The Age of Consent Back & Insert

The Age of Consent Record
The Age of Consent (1984)
  1. Why? 5:55 (sample)
  2. It Ain't Necessarily So 4:40 (sample)
  3. Screaming 4:13 (sample)
  4. No More War 3:52 (sample)
  5. Love & Money 5:08 (sample) /
  6. Smalltown Boy 5:00 (sample)
  7. Heatwave 2:41 (sample)
  8. Junk 4:17 (sample)
  9. Need A Man Blues 4:19 (sample)
  10. I Feel Love/Johnny Remember Me 5:59 (sample)
Album Rating (1-10):5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Jimmy Somerville - Vox & Words (Communards)
Larry Steinbachek - Keyboards
Steve Bronski - Percussion
Mike Thorne - Produced
John Folarin - Congas
The Pink Singers - Choir
Cris Cioe - Alto sax (Uptown Horns)
Arno Hecht Tenor Sax, Clarinet (Uptown Horns)
Hollywood Paul - Trumpet (Uptown Horns)
Bob Funk - Trombone (Uptown Horns)
Caroline O'Connor - Tap
Beverly Lauridsen, Jesse Levy, Mark Shuman - Cellos
Peter Griffiths, Carl Beatty, Dominick Maita - Recording Engineer
Harvey Goldenberg, Julian Mendelson - Mixing Engineers
The Garden, Skyline, RPM - Studios
Jack Skinner, Aaron Chakraverty - Mastering
Green Ink - Sleeve

Unknown-ness: I have heard the name Bronski Beat before, and casually categorized it as another new wave 80's band. I was not familiar with their background or any music. Right from the iconic imagery on the back cover, (not to mention the listing of the homosexual age of consent laws per country on the record sleeve) they are easily identifiable as a positive, homosexual-rights driven band.

Album Review: With a somewhat androgynous voice (falling to a more feminine side ala Annie Lennox), "Why?" starts of with Jimmy's operatic singing of "Why.' The jittery electronic beats and synthesizers build a mechanical and dark atmosphere. His voice is a calm speak singing for the verse and chorus, and after twice through, a trumpet fueled instrumental bridges the next set of verses. There are a couple of operatic note-holding moments, and odd growl-"r-rolling" accents which characterizes his unique singing style. The second song is a bluesy, smoky back alley prohibition era mood piece. The organ stands out in the track. The vocals are calmly sung, and a deep choir fills in the background of the chorus. The exit music follows the vocal melody out with a fade. "Screaming" is a slow, dark lament of trying to get others to understand. It follows the same pace & tempo throughout the length. "No More War" follows on the heels, as dark and dreary, like watching rain fall against a window in a dark, cavernous room. The vocals hang on long notes and draw out the syllables in a powerful, yet sad declaration against war. "Love & Money" has a slightly more upbeat drum beat, but it is still a dark, depressing song. He drones 'money is the root of all evil.' A sad sax compliments the atmosphere of the track.

Their breakout track "Smalltown Boy" has a New Order feel to it, with its choice of bass, drums and synthesizers. His voice still sounds like Yaz or Annie Lennox, but it remains dark and depressed, like a middle of the night, club record. Another theatrical bluesy, slinky, back alley show-tune, "Heatwave" feels like it could have popped up in the middle of the Broadway play "Chicago." It even ends with a breathy exhale: very theatrical. Still sinister in tone, but more straightforward in rhythm and dance, "Junk" is a catchy two piece song. Both sections, the sung chorus and the spoke-sang verse, which revolves around repetitive usage of the word junk have strong hooks, which makes you happily anticipate the next section. The short musical break features samples of popular advertisements from the time. The message is not to want excess; not to want junk. "Need A Man Blues" starts of with a vocal-only bluesy singing of the title. Slow-dance electronic beats come in, and the song gently glides along, leaving any blues element behind. The final track begins like "A Flock Of Seagull's" 'I Ran.' Then the vocals come in with a planned disco melody similar to Donna Summer, whom they are actually covering in the "I Feel Love" half of the song. The melody does not alter when the lyrics change to "Johnny Remember Me." The song holds steady without tempo or melody changes throughout the entire song. And the album ends in a fade.

On a re-listen to the album, I can hear that many of the strange synthesized elements are very similar to Oingo Boingo. But the complete presentation here is much sadder and depressed than the bouncy Boingo songs. To my ear, the songs feel long, tedious and basically like work to listen to and enjoy.

Stand-Out Track:

Links:Bronski Beat Wikipedia
Bronski Beat Myspace
Bronski Beat Myspace 2
Steve Bronski's Page
Steve Bronski Myspace
Age Of Consent Myspace
Smalltown Boy Myspace
Jimmy Somerville Page
Jimmy Somerville Page 2

1 comment:

  1. I just heard a song from this album via online radio station and swore the singer was Annie Lennox also. That led me to find your page in a web search. Ah, serendipity. Thanks for blogging this info. :)