Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Cretones - Thin Red Line

This month marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Thin Red Line, the debut album from the Los Angeles new-wave rock band the Cretones. The group included Mark Goldenberg (formerly of the Eddie Boy Band) on vocals and guitar, Peter Bernstein on bass and vocals, Steve Beers on percussion, and Steve Leonard on keyboards and vocals. The album spent ten weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 125.

Side one opens with “Real Love”, the band’s only charting single. Released in May of 1980, it spent six weeks on the US Billboard Hot 100 with top spot of number 79. The song has a driving beat and strong guitar chords. The aggressive lyrics pointedly tell a girl that she has been wasting her time with meaningless flings and that she needs a “real love”. The vocals remind me a bit of Lindsey Buckingham, another influential west-coast artist at the time.

“Everybody’s Mad at Katherine” features a winding keyboard melody that instantly makes me think of some of the UK new-wave crew like Elvis Costello.

“I Can’t Wait” keeps the up-tempo beats coming.

“Justine” was released as the lead single, but it failed to chart. This smoldering rocker tells about a girl who is living fast and forgetting all about the guy who adores her quietly from a far.

The B-side to the first single was “Mad Love”, a mid-tempo rocker about the crazy aspects of a new relationship.

Side two starts with the pumping beat of “Cost of Love”. The lyrics again are reprimanding a lover, telling her that she needs to take things more seriously.

The previous three songs were all recorded by Linda Ronstadt for her 1980 album Mad Love (click here for that review). Ironically, her record came out a month before Thin Red Line which might have had some negative impact on the Cretone’s first single release (she was more well-known thanks to a strong chart run in the 70’s). Having been exposed to both albums, I can appreciate her versions in a stronger light after hearing the originals (which I also love).

“Thin Red Line”, the title track, tells the tale of a runaway teen who is looking to start a new life away from her domineering Southern family.

“Ways of the Heart” was selected as the B-side to the second single. This is another song about the navigating the complexities of love.

“Mrs. Peel” features a catchy “hey” hook in the chorus that gets into your head. The guitar bridge is pretty smooth too.

The album closes with “Here Comes the Wave”, a tune that likens the ups and downs of dating to the turbulent ocean surf. Kind of appropriate coming from a native California band.

I have to give thanks to my online music buddies Mark and Herc for turning me on to rare record; Thin Red Line was only released on vinyl back in 1980 on Richard Perry’s Planet Records label (home of the Pointer Sisters, the Plimsouls, Night, and more). Since the band broke up after their second release a year later, it definitely stands as a buried treasure.

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