Rational Youth – Cold War Night Life

photo by Marc de Mouy (1982)

This December sees the release of a deluxe expanded edition of Cold War Night Life, the debut album of Canadian synth pop outfit Rational Youth. It is the second time the acclaimed album has had a fresh outing since its original unveiling and with rare memorabilia and photos, new extensive liner notes, and a host of extended remixes and singles related to the original full-length it provides nothing less than rich and thick pleasure.

Formed in 1981 by Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn, the Montreal hailing band was as notable as releasing one of the first all-synth pop albums released in Canada the following year with Cold War Night Life as they simply were for highly flavoursome songs. The following years only saw their music and releases find more success and further afield alongside arrivals and departures in personnel. Even so Rational Youth came to an end in 1986 but twice the band has returned, the first in 1999 seeing third album To the Goddess Electricity released with the 2009 re-uniting of Howe and Vorn leading to the extremely well-received Future Past Tense EP seven years later when Gaenor Howe stood alongside Tracy. It is fair to say though that throughout, Cold War Night Life has continued to be an inspirational moment for new fans and artists so it will be no surprise if its fresh return finds new appetites and plaudits feasting.

Kraftwerk was a major inspiration upon both Howe and Vorn and openly embraced within their early sound though still no more than a rich spicing to their own imagination as revealed across Cold War Night Life. The band’s second gig was supporting Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and it is easy to suggest they too provided a strong influence listening to the album, especially in moments like City Of Night, a track which dances with ears and imagination half way in to the release. Melodic hooks flirt like cousins to those found within the UK duo’s Enola Gay, luring and seducing with inevitable success such their infectious potency highlighting why the track was one of the bands most memorable and successful.

Before it within Cold War Night Life, opener Close To Nature sets the tone and electronic pop landscape, its dark air and alluring shadows draping the instinctive catchiness of the track’s enterprise and heart. The song has a certain Fad Gadget-esque breath to its breath and character which only adds to its swift beguiling of ears before Beware The Fly strolls in with a more Thomas Dolby meets Landscape like personality and infectiousness to match its success.

With both alone proving that good songs can be fresh and current to newcomers no matter when they were written Saturdays in Silesia soon joins the pair in casting synth pop contagion as melodies and nagging rhythmic enticement reign over ears and imagination. The track is pure virulence before drifting off to allow Just A Sound In The Night to share its richly emotive air and drama within a less urgent but just as magnetic pop embrace which lies somewhere between the John Foxx and Midge Ure fronted eras of Ultravox.

The likes of Le Meilleur Des Mondes with its darkly lit almost menacing instrumental and otherworldly laced intimation and the Visage evoking Ring The Bells further reveal the broadening landscape of Rational Youth’s emerging sound, its own fertile enterprise and suggestiveness an easy involving of the imagination while Dancing On The Berlin Wall, a song which only eclipsed its original success around Europe with its re-release as a single when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, breaths cold war drama and sinister intrigue within its infectious theatre.

For all its pop agility and prowess, the album is just as notable and potent in its instrumentals, Power Zone another almost sinisterly too easy to immerse within and have the imagination conjuring with its disquieting air and haunting electronics. We have many favourite moments within the release but this remains one of our big pleasures and soon rivalled by the equally ominous and haunting Coboloid Race. It too is soaked in a dark magnetism while suggesting a DAF like influence and only captivates from start to finish.

With the album offering Cité Phosphore, the French version of City Of Night, a Danse mix of City Of Night, and an extended versions of Saturdays in Silesia and City Of Night, as well as the crystalline radiance of the band’s debut single, I Want To See The Light, the ever thrilling Cold War Night Life only confirms itself as one of synth pop’s finest moments as it delights fans and newcomers to Rational Youth alike.

Cold War Night Life is released December 6th on CD and digitally via https://rationalyouth.bandcamp.com/album/cold-war-night-life-expanded-and-remastered with a vinyl version available to order via Music Vaultz.

https://rational-youth.com/   https://www.facebook.com/RationalYouth   https://twitter.com/tm_howe

Pete RingMaster 05/12/2019

Copyright RingMasterReview: MyFreeCopyright

Naked Lunch – Beyond Planets

cover

    The return of Naked Lunch, one of the UK’s first electronic rock bands, has been an increasingly impressive and thrilling proposition with a clutch of single showing that this is not just an aesthetic return of an eighties band as with so many others. Reinventing their sound and early songs with a craft and invention which sees them an easy fit in the modern premise of electronic world as well as casting new and invigoratingly inciting encounters to bask in, the band has made a striking statement with their debut album Beyond Planets. Anticipation was high because of the previous singles but the album exceeded all assumptions and hopes with its refreshing and magnetic slices of electro rock/pop.

    Originally formed in 1979 by vocalist Tony Mayo and guitarist Gary Shepherd, under the name Sons of Perdition at first with Naked Lunch becoming the moniker after their debut gig, the band built a strong and feverishly followed presence through shows with the likes of DAF, Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget, B Movie, and Clock DVA, as well as their own gigs and tours, and first single Rabies. The band also made a major contribution in helping Stevo find bands for the ground-breaking Some Bizarre compilation album which was released via the Daniel Miller (The Normal) owned Mute Records and to which the band itself contributed the track La Femme. That first single followed to acclaim and good support though was banned from day-time radio play because of its title; but subsequently line-up changes and differences led to the band ending in 1981, though there was a short lived live presence through Mayo until 1985.

   2010 saw Mayo reunite with early member Paul Davies with the pair writing new material before original line-up members Mick Clark and Cliff Chapman joined a year later. The band was expanded by Mark Irvine in 2012 and Jet Noir last year. First single Alone sparked the attention and bred an appetite in a great many for the band’s return, which the following Slipping Again, Again and Glow only reinforced and accelerated. Now with their excellent debut album, Naked Lunch position themselves back to the fore of British electronic music with a mature craft and imaginative invention which time has obviously bred in their creativity.

     Opening track We Are, the new video single from the band, opens on an electronic dazzling of sound and sonic light, a space bred beckoning enticing the imagination into play. From the celestial ambience magnetic beats soon register an eager coaxing before stretching the bait with firmer rhythmic temptation. The song soon settles into a restrained stroll with vibrant electro colour courting the somber and pressing dark vocals. It is an enthralling mix with a subdued funk swagger, the track playing like a mix of Fad Gadget and Yello as the narrative sets the scene and premise of the release, humanity in all its oppressive shadows. The song takes longer to fully convince than subsequent tracks it is fair to say but ultimately succeeds to set the album off on a potent and engaging start.

    Slipping Again, Again comes next, the song a reworking of the B-side Slipping Again of that very first single. The song has a dark bordering on sinister essence to vocals and ambience which adds a delicious noir breath to the tantalising mix of melodic enterprise and rhythmic revelry. The dust clad tones of Mayo only accentuate the heavy intrigue and shadow of the song whilst the synth teasing and guitar sculpted flames provide riveting adventure and mystery to the contagious and menacing croon of the song. It is an enthralling new chapter to the original song and easily ignites the senses before being straight away matched by next up Rabies. A new album version of the band’s first success, the track emerges on a skittish shuffle of percussive bait soon joined by pumping electro vibrancy and caustic guitar scratching. The band has taken the heart and essential power of the original but polished up its sides and intent to sculpt an even greater contemporary synth pop dance. It is a mouthwatering piece of enterprise which alone shows how the band has evolved and grown its sound without losing the  striking glory of its first entrance.

     The album continues to raise its plateau as the next trio of songs starting with Emotional Turmoil, toy with, entrance, and manipulate the passions. The track is a bouncy infection drenched romp of electro pop with scuzz kissed guitar and seductive sonic beckoning all framed by a rhythmic toxicity which is equally irresistible. A tonic for any down trodden day, the track is an energy fuelling, emotion regenerating dance of creative endeavour and irrepressible mischief. It is immediately followed by a new version of Le Femme, the song receiving its originally intended spelling but one changed by Miller for the Some Bizarre release. Like Rabies, the track is bursting with fresh updated invention but without losing any of its original strengths, and like the other thoroughly enjoyable. Alone steps in next with its shadowed brew of evocative elegance within an almost oppressive web of emotional drama, its premise that of individuals in a disconnection to the world the voice within an immersive atmosphere. It is a gentler embrace than the previous tracks but no less resourceful and thrilling.

The album’s best track, Weekend Behaviour struts in next with an instantly addictive electro seduction, a tempting soon aided by less intensive vocals and a wash of melodic radiance. It is slightly deceitful though as from within the warm stomp returning intimidation coated vocals join the affray alongside a snarling graze of guitar aligned to raucous energy. The song is a scintillating brew of electro rock with old school punk rock essences taunting and firing up the passions.

     A new version for the album of that previously mentioned single B-side, Slipping Again treats the ear next with similar success to the other re-workings on Beyond Planets whilst its successor Glow, a song which like all the recent singles gets an album make-over, provides a Landscape like expanse of exploratory imagination from the keys and guitar within a smouldering and pulsating electronic soundscape. With a delicious groove around and spicy twang to its central narrative, the track is a lofty pinnacle in a climate of peaks.

     Completed by the excellent Fade Away with its absorbing oscillating radiance and electro majesty, Beyond Planets is an outstanding exploit in a vibrantly expressive journey. Rich in nostalgia but only to the extent of re-kindling old flames to unite with greater new and potent excitements, the album easily declares Naked Lunch the real deal to give all the young electro bucks a run for their creative money.

www.nakedlunch.org.uk

9/10

RingMaster 11/02/2014

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Naked Lunch – Alone

Alone

Receiving the promo for the new single from Naked Lunch instantly raised a tingle as thoughts shot back to our first discovery of them through their appearance of the Some Bizarre compilation album from Mute Records way back in 1981 with the excellent Rabies single coming soon after. Returning after a 30 year break the band shows that maturity and time has not diminished their unique sense of and adventure within electronic music one iota. Alone is an evocative slice of haunting and provoking imagination drenched in the presence fans of the band remember and brought with a fresh and potent, almost destructive dark breath.

Formed in 1979 by vocalist Tony Mayo and guitarist Gary Shepherd as Sons of Perdition, though this name was changed to Naked Lunch after their debut gig, the band underwent a few changes in personnel as well as working out and delivering their sounds live. To condense their story, from a show alongside the likes of DAF, Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget, B Movie, and Clock DVA organised by the band and Stevo, who Tony had DJ’ed with previously, the band undertook the Naked Lunch’s Electronic Indoctrination Tour in 1980 which included a show at Leeds Futurama, which was filmed and eventually broadcast on BBC2. Naked Lunch then set about helping Stevo find artists and recordings to make up the Some Bizarre album, to which the band itself contributed La Femme (a song originally called Le Femme but Phonogram who the Daniel Miller (The Normal) owned Mute released the album through, changed it to grammatically correct French, missing the point of the androgyny of the electronic music scene and that the song was about that). After a parting with Stevo, Naked Lunch became managed by Ramkup with the single Rabies backed by Slipping Again being released, though it suffered from a ban on day time radio play due to the title but did receive good play and support from the likes of John Peel and Nicky Horne on their night time shows. Line-up changes continued t before the band split in 1981 with Mayo retaining the name Naked Lunch, which he registered with Companies House in May 1981. A second version of the band emerged as a live thing until 1985 and though Mayo continued with Naked Lunch projects the band as such was a quiet presence.

2010 saw Mayo link up again with early member Paul Davies and writing new material, with Mick Clark and Cliff Chapman joining in 2011, both in the original line-up. Their first gig for over 30 years came at BAS II with the addition of Mark Irvine coming in early 2012 and Jet Noir linking up in June of this year.

Themed by “Isolation, Loss and Feeling Disconnected from Society”, Alone immediately unleashes a rich beckoning atmosphere upon the ear to dramatically mark the return of the band, its lingering caresses and expansive breath an evocative cloak around the vocals of Mayo, his tones understandably feeling older and authoritative. Keys and guitars bring suggestive hues to the air and thoughts whilst the excellent backing whispered vocal kisses of Black simultaneously chill and seduce the touch of the track. With a more than slight Fad Gadget essence and the vibrant light spots and melodic teasing holding a sense of Yello to their temptation, the song is a mesmeric blend of frosty intent and warm electronic persuasion.

The single is an absorbing pleasure which raises real appetite for future sounds and endeavours of the band. Naked Lunch is as strong and as impacting as ever and electronic music will only benefit from their return.

www.nakedlunch.org.uk

8/10

RingMaster 22/08/2013

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System:FX – Twentyfirst Century

   Front Cover

     Twentyfirst Century, the third EP from UK industrial antagonists System:FX, is one of those releases which as it ravages and enthrals the ear feels like it is standing astride the senses with a sledgehammer of sound and wash of melodic animosity. It is a collection of colossal songs which seem to come at the body and those beleaguered senses from every angle and through every pore whilst treating the bruising with invigorating and refreshing radiance. Already used to strong acclaim upon their steady and rapidly ascending rise the London duo have taken their sound and stature to another level with the new EP, giving it a spite and anger that provokes from start to finish whilst unleashing the most potent rewards.

Formed in 2011, System:FX has already set stages alight alongside the likes of Panzer AG, 32Crash, DAF, Client, Implant, Grendel, Assemblage 23, Nitzer Ebb, Combichrist, Leaether Strip, Uberbyte, Inertia, Deviant UK, Cybercide, Crash Symptom and many more, each performance adding to their increasing reputation. Last year saw the band playing Resistanz 2012 as Phil Barry’s (Be My Enemy, Cubanate) live band whilst this year at the same event their new EP felt the hunger of fans as they clamoured for its purchase, something which is going to be emulated one suspects as the release works its way into the passions and psyche of not only the UK industrial scene but the world. Consisting of Steve Alton (vocals/guitar/programming), who recently also linked up with Fredrik Croona in the latter’s project Cynical Existence, and Debs (drums/backing vocals), with the band expanding to a trio for live performances, System:FX go for the jugular with Twentyfirst Century, its sinew driven body of sound and the lyrical/sonic intensity inspired by the disappointment of adult hood and seemingly seeded in the memories of the London Riots, clenching its jaws around the throat of the senses and thoughts never relinquishing the grip until the last note has seared its imprint into place. No mercy is given, or wanted when a release sounds and feels this good.

Surrounded by the dissident calls of the populace opener Vengeance courts the ear with scratchy guitar and equally blister electronic lures before exploding into a storm of thumping hungry rhythms awash with deliciously fiery melodic bait. It is an instantly hypnotic temptation, its touch a barracking intensity on the senses but accompanied by a colour fuelled seduction which ensures any discomfort is a prize worth taking. Just as passions and thoughts have no resistance to the intensity and empowering provocation of the song, limbs are mere pawns to the heavy trodden dance beats and the epidemically compelling sonically sculpted enticement. It is a maniacal puppeteer leaving a breathless and fully satiated victim in its undertow.

The following Fire, skirts around the ear initially with a scattering of sonic steps punctured by muscular strokes before letting the intensity off of its rein to prowl and intimidate. With samples adding further menace and intrigue the track is a rapacious journey through the shadows and blackest corners of society, its Prodigy like urgency and punk toxin aided by the snarling vocals, a belligerent poison to the seemingly warm electronic embrace. Though not as impossibly addictive as its predecessor the track is a thoughtful imagination spiking treat which evokes and narrates its intent superbly.

The title track like the first brings the sound of streets in turmoil to the ear to compliment the rigorously persistent start of worrisome electronics and riffs framed in unbreakable rhythmic caging. Danger and unrest stroll hand in hand with the pulse bursting stomp of the song whilst the sonic heat rinses the air of the song in impacting and emotively inspired imagery, helped by the continuing samples of sirens. An intensive imposition on apathy and assumptions, the track is another weighty tempest to capture the appetite before handing over to the closing red alert of Stay In Your Homes. With samples of martial law declarations punctuating the thrilling start, the track pulls to its loftiest heights on the EP and proceeds to oversee a nation in self-destruct with a rain of sonic mercury and melodic acidity falling upon a web of rhythmic and bass toned predation. It is a stunning finale of corrosive imagination and commentary leaving the body and mind exhausted but fulfilled.

Twentyfirst Century is a devastatingly outstanding release which only gives a ‘complaint’ to its briefness of just four songs, but episodes which confirms System:FX as one of the most exhilarating bands in the UK. Roll on an album is all that is left to say.

https://www.facebook.com/SysFX

10/10

RingMaster 14/08/2013

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