CMJ - 1/5/04, p.8Ranked #3
in CMJ's "Top 20 Most-Played Albums of 1982".
Personnel: Mike Score (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Frank Maudsley (vocals); Paul Reynolds (guitar); Bob Sargeant (pandora); Ali Score (drums).
Recording information: Battery Studios, London, England.
Nearly 30 years after the release of this debut album, Liverpudlian quartet A Flock of Seagulls are still best remembered for Mike Score's aviation-approved hairstyle, which is an absolute shame. While it earned the band plenty of attention back in the heady days of MTV, it ended up hurting their musical legacy in the long run. Thankfully, when their biggest hit "I Ran" was used for the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, it renewed interest in the band and a whole new generation of AFOS fans were born. When their debut album was released in 1982, they had already released the "Telecommunication" single and the Modern Love Is Automatic EP, which had already laid the groundwork for their unique style. Mixing mood-inducing synth work with delay-laden guitar licks, A Flock of Seagulls straddled the line between the cool coldness of early OMD and the bold bravado of U2, bringing both worlds together while adding a bit of sci-fi imagery and immediate commercial pop hooks. When the single "I Ran" was released (before Score's hair grew wings), the timing was perfect and AFOS' career began to soar. But apart from that big hit, did the band have much else to offer? Oh, yeah. Much, much more.
With this self-titled album, Mike Score, Ali Score, Frank Maudsley, and Paul Reynolds set the bar extremely high, both for themselves and for their contemporaries. The band may have been lumped into the synth pop category, but Reynolds' guitar work was just as important to their sound as the keyboards and Score's voice and futuristic lyrics. Take a listen to the glorious "Space Age Love Song," for example. It's a guitar and synth instrumental that just happens to have vocals. These four musicians created their own musical world, and for a few years, they were untouchable. From the building synthetic swell of album-opener "Modern Love Is Automatic," these four young musicians and producer Mike Howlett took listeners on a trip through a world that was cold but not without feeling. While the lyrical imagery was firmly rooted in the space age, the emotions were timeless. From the early days of rock & roll, there have always been love songs, and on this album, it's no different. Mike Score sings of love and isolation in a modern world, albeit one that is inhabited and ruled by technology only dreamed about back in Elvis' day. AFOS, at their core, were really just a rock & roll band with big dreams and bigger imaginations. On this debut, they were creative without being pretentious. When an album boasts a few hit singles, it's considered a success, and this album sports two instantly recognizable hits in the aforementioned "I Ran" and "Space Age Love Song." But this album has more than just those genre-defying classics: no less than eight of the album's ten tracks were on constant rotation on U.S. alternative and college radio that year, and the instrumental "D.N.A." won the group a bona fide Grammy. Not many bands in the last 30 years can put that down on their r?sum?!
A Flock of Seagulls' debut is a true classic: an album that defines an entire era, not just the band that recorded it. It has all the hallmarks of a classic album, from the songwriting to the production to the unrestrained creativity of its makers. It's an exciting and timeless piece of pop that stands up three decades after it was created. It remains one of the absolute best albums of the '80s. [While the U.S. version of this album has been available on CD for years, the U.K. version of the album only appeared briefly on CD and has been out of print for ages. This excellent reissue takes the U.K. track list (including the song "Tokyo," which was not available on the U.S. album) and then adds four bonus B-sides including "Pick Me Up," "Windows," and two instrumentals that give "D.N.A." a run for its money: "Tanglimara" and "Intro." ~ Stephen SPAZ Schnee