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How Men Are
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HEAVEN 17 How Men Are (1984 UK 9-track vinyl LP including Sunset Now and the fantastic closing song And Thats No Lie picture sleeve with illustrated lyric inner. The sleeve shows minimal wear & the vinyl is Excellent & looks barely playedV2326)
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The melodies are addictive throughout, boosted by the brilliant "Afrodiziak", the underrated female session backing trio, consisting of future Soul to Soul singer Caron Wheeler.
Earth, Wind & Fire's horn section features on my favorite song: "This is Mine" - a delightful, uplifting mix of melody wrapped up in crescendos of brass.
"And That's No Lie" may be the longest break up song recorded in the 80's, clocking in over 10 minutes but the bloat can be forgiven by its defiant "I won't be beat, not in a thousand years".
The remix of "This is Mine" (Cinemix), is an absolute gem, reflecting the band's electronic roots. With its frenetic, stuttered pace and well timed sample pulls of vocals and horn. Just when one thinks the track is over, it roars back to life, like a 3 alarm fire.
For example, 'Five Minutes to Midnight' is classic H17 with chants, a bit wacky, and insanely catchy. 'Sunset Now' is pure pop perfection, and 'And That's No Lie' meanders on for about ten minutes, but is still quite wonderful. And 'This is Mine', although a little stuck in the 80's still works well.
But the likes of 'Flamedown' and 'Reputation' just don't work for me. They sound really dated and sort of 'jazz funk lite' All personal taste I guess.
Now don't take that too negatively, it's a worthwhile purchase and I can't wait for their new album soon (late 2015 I've heard)
Finally, I had the pleasure of seeing them play live recently and I don't think they played a single song off this album. I guess that says something.
While still heavy on the synth pop influences,these songs aren't as bound by them and focus more on rhythm,melody and a lot of backround singers. It's not as thoroughly R&B oriented as you might think. But on songs such as "Sunset Now","The Skin I'm In" and in particular "Reputation" the backup singers,cracked/muted horn effects and somewhat off kilter chord progressions showcase a similar jazzier influence that Thomas Dolby was going into,only with more production scene. There's a sense here the trio might be going to be some English version of Steely Dan. Of course Joe Jackson probably already sort of had that covered by this point. Other songs such as "Five Minutes To Midnight","This Is Mine","The Fuse" and "Flamedown" graft this soulfully jazzy glitz with the chillier synth pop for a strange hybrid which is explored in the more abstract extended sings here,expecially the "cinemix" of "This Is Mine".
Heaven 17 often covered a lot of their lyrical and musical influences on their albums quite subtly. The idea was probably that if you were "in" on the jazz,movie and other cultural influences integrated into their sound,that was wonderful. But if you didn't,they'd kind of lure you towards seeking it out by making it all sound very appealing. On the other band,most of the songs can be enjoyed purely out of that swoony New Romantic era...romanticism that was still an enormous aspect of their approach even at this point in their careers. They always tended towards the quirky end of the British synth pop movement. It's a quality more often associated with solo artists such as Howard Jones and Thomas Dolby. But this trio had it all going on that way too. And while they were never quite as enormously popular commercially as others who worked in this particular pop music field,they sure had a thing going. But you really have to come to it to really appreciate it.
If anything, compared to the first two albums this one is more mature and less hit driven. Some tracks seem like filler, portents of things to come in hindsight. Not a bad album, certainly nothing embarrassing. But just wait...