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Friday, July 25, 2008

Thomas Dolby - The Golden Age of Wireless

Name: Thomas Dolby
Album: The Golden Age of Wireless
Year: 1982
Style: Synth Pop
Similar Artists: David Bowie, OMD, Baumann, Air, Gary Numan, Peter Shilling
"One-Word" Review: Slick-Compuman
Based Out Of: London England
Label: Venice In Peril, EMI, Capitol,
The Golden Age of Wireless - Cover & Record
The Golden Age of Wireless - Back & Record

The Golden Age of Wireless (1982)

  1. She Blinded Me With Science 5:09
  2. Radio Silence 4:32
  3. Airwaves 3:35
  4. Flying North 3:50
  5. Weightless 3:45 /
  6. Europa & The Pirate Twins 3:18
  7. Wind Power 3:58
  8. Commercial Breakup 4:15
  9. One of Our Submarines 5:11
  10. Cloudburst at Shingle Street 5:45
Album Rating (1-10): 9.0

Members & Other Bands:
Thomas Morgan Dolby Robertson - Produced, Cover, Writer
Tim Friese-Green - Produced
Andrew Douglas - Cover
Bill Smith - Layout
Lesley Fairbairn - Personal Assistant
Andy Ferguson - Management
Wally Brill - Engineer
Chris Birkett - Engineer
Tim Hunt - Engineer
Chris Stone - Engineer
Mike Hedges - Engineer
Graham Carmichael - Engineer
Martin levan - Engineer
Tony Simons - Business Management
Lesley Fairbain - Personal Assistant
Kevin Armstrong
Andy Partridge
Bruce Wookkey
Lene Lovich
Les Chappell
John Marsh
Akiko Yano

Unknown-ness: I have naturally heard She Blinded Me With Science, but was never a huge fan of the song. But I figured there were enough interesting elements in the song, that the album was probably worth checking out. So as this is an artist I've heard of, and even listened to, I could not claim to know enough about Thomas Dolby to not include this thrift store purchase. I have picked up his other records, including the first version of this record without the hit. The album looks like a wonderful mathematical and futuristic Rube Goldbergian piece of artwork, so I figured the chances were good that I would like this album.

Album Review: The version of Wireless that I got first was the re-issued US version with “She Blinded Me With Science” leading off the order. I just picked up the earlier release without the radio hit, but this is the album that got me into Thomas Dolby, so it shall be reviewed. There is not much to read into SBMWS, except that it is different from the rest of the album, and it is understandable why earlier version did not have the song. Thus its success also makes it understandable as to why it was included on later releases. Anyway, SBMWS features all the synthesized elements that make the 80’s new wave so famous…synthetic organ, bass & drums, along with other interesting effects and the famous speaking voice over of the “scientist.” It is not one of my favorite songs, but the bits and pieces in the song prove worth while with the rest of the album. “Radio Silence” is by far, my favorite song on the album. From the disjointed vocal chorus that starts the song off, the driving new wave pace, bouncy bass, and extremely catchy musical repetition of the melody that chorus uses, everything works together very cohesively and smoothly. The breathy, bowie-esq “counting-paced” section works so well as the third instantly catchy bit. There is not a boring part of the song, and as repetitious as the melody is, the song finds new hooks to overlay making it more and more interesting each time. It is energetic without being too bombastic or overbearing. “Airwaves” is a quiet sleepy piano ballad. The chorus picks up the emotional level without leaving the easy listening style. If SBMWS is all you know, then this would be surely a shocking song, with its minimal sound effects, and slightly sad melody. “Flying North” had a typical 80’s driving synth sound to it, straight from Flock Of Seagulls or A-Ha. It is upbeat, and the keyboard hook is fun to bounce along too. A chorus of voices cherubically cries the song’s title. Part of the song is very similar to Peter Shilling’s song “Major Tom.” “Weightless” is a theatrical nighttime ballad, one part Pet Shop Boys, and two parts David Bowie. The pause as Dolby utters “Fill Me” is gothic and eerie, yet quite beautiful.

“Europa and the Pirate Twin” starts side two with a high speed song that reminds me of XTC’s “Fly on the Wall” in sound, and ironically enough, has Andy Partridge on harmonica. It is jumpy and disjointed like XTC songs of the time, but still comes off produced in smooth new wave style. There are plenty of interesting and sporadic sound effects used, including hand claps, guitar licks, and computer bits. “Wind Power” is an electronic song set to a stomp beat, once it gets going 45 seconds into the track. It is simple and repetitive, but very effective at continuing the conceptual design of this album. It truly feels like the music of the future, streamlined and smooth, even if the beats and construction of the songs are jagged. “Commercial Breakup” starts with a familiar sounding guitar hook (I cannot place what song it sounds like Billy Joel possibly, maybe Paul Simon…can’t figure it out). The structure of the song and the way Dolby sings both remind me of The Talking Heads. It is another simple straightforward pop song, sounding like a Mega Man game on occasion, and the audio from commercials is interjected at different times. “One of our Submarines” is the other added track. It starts off with a distant vocal, singing the chorus, as if underwater. The synthesized sounds are sharper than most of the rest of the album. But it is more fitting than the other added track. The track fills empty of life, even though there are no less instrumental sounds included. It feels like the song has already been represented by the other songs on the album. It is not a bad song, just repetitive in its nature on the album. “Cloudburst at Shingle Street” ends both versions of the record. It is very theatrical, starting with synth strings, in an upbeat excited fashion. It contains a very melodic chorus, and it evokes a bold and proud energy. The song fades out with a marching chant, with Dolby singing solo over the ending seconds.

Stand Out Track: Radio Silence

Links:
Thomas Dolby - Wikipedia
Thomas Dolby - Allmusic
Thomas Dolby - myspace
Thomas Dolby.com
Thomas Dolby - Interview
Thomas Dolby - unofficial

1 comment:

  1. One of the best albums ever. It was recently remastered and re-released in the UK with its original track listing, the awesome guitar version of Radio Silence, and loads of extras. The only thing missing is the 12' version of She Blinded Me With Science, which is the one that was the hit in North America...

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