Album Reviews

Various – 12"/80s/2

(Family) UK release date: 27 June 2005

If you’re a child of the ’80s, then as well as fashion disasters such as leg warmers, Frankie Says t-shirts and the Nik Kershaw inflicted snood, it’s a fair bet that you’ll remember the 12 inch single. In the days before downloads and CDs, the 12″ single was the way for music fans to hear more of their favourite artist or, as the more cynical may see it, another way for record companies to fleece money from the public.

12″ singles were so popular it’s amazing that nobody had thought of putting together a compilation until earlier this year when the first instalment of 12″/80s was released. This collected together remixes of The Cure, The Jam and Propaganda and was a big success. So much of a success in fact that, just four months later, the follow up has been released.

So what we have here is three CDs full of remixes by the well loved (Echo & The Bunnymen, The Associates, Talk Talk), long forgotten (Hue And Cry, Belouis Some) and some who you’d forgotten even existed in the first place (erm, Swansway anybody?). In these days where Friends Reunited can put out compilation albums, its impossible to see it not being a success.

Of course these days when we talk about ‘remixes’, we’re used to hard and heavy dance music – they’re almost a separate song, when people like The Chemical Brothers or DJ Tiesto twiddle the knobs they often end up unrecognisable from the original. This wasn’t the case back in the ’80s, where a ‘remix’ often consisted of a long instrumental passage before the main song kicked in. This is the case with several tracks here, as on Beloius Some’s Imagination and Love Comes Quickly by the Pet Shop Boys.

Others are more inventive however. Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and their label ZTT in general, turned the 12″ remix into an art form. At one stage, there were so many remixes of both Relax and Two Tribes out that the band were in danger of becoming a parody of themselves. The Annihilation mix of Two Tribes is included here, and is magnificent, another example of how important Trevor Horn was to the band’s success. Instead of an extended instrumental passage, we hear a Ronald Reagan impersonator and extracts from Protect & Survive, the Government’s infamous booklet about how to survive a nuclear attack. It was positively subversive in 1984, and still sounds pretty good 21 years later.

There are also some long forgotten gems included that make you think “ooh, it’s ages since I heard this”. Haircut 100‘s Favourite Shirts is proof that not all clean cut boy bands were bad things, while Duran Duran‘s dance remix of The Reflex is truly innovative – it may sound slightly dated now, but at the time it was a groundbreaking record, and the remix gives it added depth. Soft Cell also remind us why they were so good with the melodramatic Bedsitter.

Simple Minds recall the days before they became bloated and pompous with the majestic New Gold Dream, while Tom Tom Club‘s Genius Of Love is another inspired choice. However, the disco/calypso rhythms of Kid Creole‘s Annie I’m Not Your Daddy have dated badly, and Harold Faltermayer‘s classic Axel F will now forever be tainted by association with that damn Crazy Frog.

Yet there’s more good stuff than bad here – the best disc is probably the second one, consisting as it does of some absolute classics, such as Siouxsie And The Banshees‘ eerie, jerky Peek-A-Boo (which adds to and enhances the original here), the Bunnymen’s atmospheric The Killing Moon, and Julian Cope‘s lost masterpiece Trampolene – all of which are given a fresh twist thanks to some excellent remixing.

With 35 tracks to explore, this is the perfect set to inset into a multi-play CD player if you want a slightly retro soundtrack for a party. Pull on your deedly boppers, shove those badminton shuttlecocks down your shorts � la Wham, and celebrate the 12″ remix. What’s the betting that the next episode will be released in time for Christmas?

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