Thursday, September 18, 2014

Heaven 17 - How Men Are

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of How Men Are, the third studio album from Heaven 17. This one charted at number 31 in Germany, number 28 in the Netherlands and Sweden, and number 12 in the UK.

Side one starts with mish-mash of rhythms and tempos of “Five Minutes to Midnight”. The album’s title comes from the second verse of the song. It is a little erratic and because of that I never really warmed up to this one.

The first single was “Sunset Now”; it went to number 39 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 24 in the UK and number 18 in Ireland. Now, this is more in line with the earlier Heaven 17 that I enjoyed. I like the up-beat swing to it as well as the backing vocals by Afrodiziak (Caron Wheeler and Claudia Fontaine) on the chorus.

“This Is Mine”, the second single, reached number 28 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 25 in Ireland and number 23 in the UK. The Phenix Horns, the brass section for Earth Wind and Fire, play a big part in the sound here. Of the two singles, I prefer this track a little bit more. In fact, it is easily my favorite track of the first side of the record.

The mid-tempo “The Fuse” stands at a crossroad, where hesitation is not an option.

The side closes with “Shame Is on the Rocks”.

Side two opens with “The Skin I’m In”, a slow-tempo introspective number. The track goes a more acoustic route with simpler strings and bass.

The big, bold sound returns with “Flamedown”.

Next up is “Reputation”, another jazzy number about an up-and-coming big-shot living in the fast-lane.

The album closes with the epic nine-plus minute long “… (And That’s No Lie)”. The open unwinds with a funky bass groove that gets layered with percussion and synths until the vocals come in after the one minute mark. The song then has a beautiful instrumental interlude in the middle and a powerful acapella vocal ending. A remix single version went to number 52 in the UK and number 22 in Ireland.

As much as I was a fan of Heaven 17’s first two albums, How Men Are completely missed my music radar. It was not until the 90’s when I got a greatest hits CD for the band that I heard even a few of the tracks. It wouldn’t be until 2011 when I picked up the entire record via digital downloads. As a fan of the group, I like the record well enough but I probably need to listen to it more than the half dozen times or so I have over the years for it to really grow on me.

For more of my reviews of the music of Heaven 17, click here.


Mark said...

I bought this within days of release and was disappointed. That's not to say it's bad, it's just nowhere near the previous H17 albums. I have it in my collection and it will hit the CD Project eventually.

Martin Maenza said...

Mark, sounds like we are of like minds here.

HERC said...

As usual, I get to be the voice of reason. HA!

I was all over this album back in 1984. No, it's not as frantic or experimental or as (fast) danceable as their first two lovely discs but it seems to be a logical procession into more chill or even jazz territory on a few tracks. The boys obviously acquired new equipment as most of the sounds, from drum machines to string sections and beyond, sound distinctly different to the electronica used on first two albums.

The epic "And That's No Lie" is a headphone listener's dream come true though it also plays out superbly in any well put together sound system, even a rolling one like the Blueberry.

Even the deluxe 2CD reissue sounds grand with significant remixes and full length versions of songs that were truncated to make room for the ten minute "And That's No Lie" on the album.

Let's meet back in a couple of decades to see if my prediction of this album emerging as a future "lost albums of the 80s" comes to fruition.

Martin Maenza said...

Herc, I have not heard any of the remixes from this one so I will have to take your word for it. I just have the standard releases of these first three Heaven 17 albums.

HERC said...

Just wanted to point out I misspoke when I mentioned a double-disc version of this album. It is merely a deluxe edition single disc with four bonus tracks.

The rest of my comment stands.