Monday, May 13, 2013

A Flock of Seagulls - Listen

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Listen, the second studio album from the new-wave band A Flock of Seagulls. Following their self-titled debut album (click here for that review) from the previous year, this 1983 sophomore effort did equally well on the charts. It peaked at number 90 in Australia, number 16 in the UK and on the US Billboard Hot 200, and number 14 in the Netherlands.

Side one opens with “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)”. This first single went to number 46 in Australia, number 44 in the Netherlands, number 37 in the Netherlands, number 33 in New Zealand, number 10 in the UK, number 8 in Canada, number 6 in Ireland and number 1 in France. In the US, it went to number 62 on the Billboard Dance chart, number 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 3 on the Mainstream Rock chart. The lyrics paint a portrait of romantic pining; I like how the voice focuses on the person within and not just external appearances. Musically, it has a prevalent swaying melody backed by Mike Score’s metronome-like synth chord and Ali Score’s steady drumbeat through out.

“Nightmares”, the second single, went to number 53 on the UK charts. Frank Maudsley’s bass is prominent on this one, setting the track’s ominous mood. This one tells of childhood dreams that still haunt a man even after he has grown up. However, he no longer has his mother to comfort him.

Things slow down a tad with the next track. The third single “Transfer Affection” went to number 43 in New Zealand, number 38 in the UK and number 22 in Ireland. It is a quite lovely ballad about wrestling with unresolved feelings; I especially like the backing harmonies by Maudsley and Paul Reynolds.

“What Am I Supposed to Do”, a quandary of encountering a former love after the relationship has ended, follows. I always liked the cascading synths and the chorus hooks on this one. For me, it closes a pretty solid first side.

Side two starts off with “Electrics”, a quirky piece of electronic music that, makes a bit of commentary of society moving to more and more dependency on electric devices. Thirty years later, we are even more so this way thanks to constantly having online connections.

“The Traveller” has an urgent, steady pace. I like how it is contrasted with the repetition/echoing of the word “stop” on the chorus.

“2:30” is a musical interlude of just under a minute long.

“Over the Border” is very much about moving on with one’s life, on to a new chapter and a new romance. While not a single, this one certainly got a lot of airplay on the college radio stations I listened to in 1983.

“The Fall” is another moody piece as the singer seems to be walking around in an emotional daze, questioning everything he encounters. I like the chorus on this one, made up of a simple repeated phrase over and over.

“(It’s Not Me) Talking” closes out the side with a very danceable track about intergalactic contact. This was actually the band’s first single released ever in 1981, when it went to number 45 on the UK Indie charts. It was released again in early 1983 where it went to number 22 on the same charts. The re-recorded version from this album was released in late 1983 where it went to number 78 on the main UK charts.

As with their debut album, I owned a copy of Listen on vinyl as well. By this point in 1983 near the end of my high school years, I was a big fan of A Flock of Seagulls and knew this record would not disappoint me. It was a mainstay of my music library until all my vinyl went along with my turntable in the mid-90’s.

A couple years ago, I did download the tracks from Listen to have in my digital music library. It was good to have this one back in my music rotation again.

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