Age Of Illusion
Other People‘s Lives
She‘s A Car Crash
To The Ends Of The Earth
Here’s a hard one for you. Does anyone remember B-Movie?
I do, but only just. They were one of the more obscure bands from the new wave/synth/New Romantic days. They were a cultish group signed to Some Bizzare.
They were formed in Mansfield in 1979, and released two singles on Lincoln indie label Dead Good Records before signing to Stevo’s Some Bizarre label in 1980. They also appeared on the legendary ‘Some Bizzare Album’ compilation with their track ‚Moles‘, alongside debut outings from Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, The The and Blancmange.
Their debut single on Phonogram’s Deram label ‚Remembrance Day‘ entered the charts in March 1981, and reached the dizzy heights of 61. They supported Duran Duran on their first UK tour. The follow-up single, ‘Marilyn Dreams’, failed to chart, but they will be best remembered for their third single ‚Nowhere Girl‘ which was a decent-sized hit in Europe, reaching the Top Ten in many countries and also had a good run in the US.
After this they signed to Sire in 1983, and recorded the album, ‚Forever Running‘, and a single, ‚A Letter from Afar‘, at Abbey Road with John “Jellybean” Benitez. The band’s keyboard player Rick Holliday left in 1983 to form Six Sed Red with Soft Cell’s Cindy Ecstasy, and Paul Statham jumped from guitar to keyboards and was briefly replaced by Stuart McLean of Charming Snakes on a tour of Israel. They eventually split in 1986, with front man Steve Hovington moving on to form a band called One in the late 1980s with Steven Webster and drummer Bob Thompson, who released an album and two singles on Chrysalis. Statham meanwhile went on to collaborate with ex-Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy.
In 2012, they released the ‘Echoes’ EP, their first new release in twenty-six years. And now in 2014 we are treated to this, their second album.
This isn’t that far away from their stuff back in the day. And that’s not a bad thing really. The first few tracks – ‚Age Of Illusion‘, ‚Other People’s Lives‘ and ‚Perfect Storm‘ – are reminiscent of days gone by. It is as if we never left the 1980s, and pretty soon you get the feeling that there’s a moment of brilliance coming. And it does. Track four is a pop sensation. ‚She’s a Car Crash‘ is five minutes of what 80’s new wave was all about, but is is brought up to date to the new post Millennium audience. Take that last track and couple it along with the next one, ‚Zeitgeist‘, which is a semi-instrumental, and you’ve got something to present to the kids – Evidence that the 80’s is alive and kicking once again. ‚Razor’s Edge‘ is another cult number that does everything in its power to relieve you of your no new wave blues. There are echoes of early New Order as ‚To the Ends of the Earth‘ fades into the Beloved sounding ‚Dark Lines‘.
This is a remarkable album. It’s the first B-Movie record in over thirty years to have the original line up. If you remember them from back then, you will no doubt be into this in a big way. It is not big or powerful or euphoric or anything like that. It doesn’t need to be. But what it is, however, is plain, honest new wave for today. The first listen will drift over you, but I guarantee you will stick it on again. Such is the pull of the nostalgic brilliance of this piece. But that’s not the remarkable thing. Although it sounds like a soundtrack for any cult film today, it also has the power to take you back thirty years too.
The story of Nottinghamshire new-wave group B-Movie is a long and winding one. Their first incarnation (and brief flirtation with success) lasted from 1979 to the mid ’80s, and even in that short space of time there were several line-up and label changes; in fact, material from that era has, if we include later compilations, been spread across at least half a dozen different imprints. There were two brief live reunions in the ’00s, (both with different line-ups) and to coincide with them, the extravagantly named ‚The Platinum Collection‘ – that’s perhaps pushing it a bit for a band who only had two charting singles in the UK, neither of which broke the top 40. They were, however, more successful abroad, and so their recent reunion (original line-up this time) might not be such a shot in the dark after all.
Their first new material in two decades is no reinvention, with everything on ‚The Age Of Illusion‘ fitting the new-wave and post-punk categories well. B-Movie don’t sound dated here though, and had this been released anonymously you’d have no trouble believing it was from a new band who are part of the recent resurgence in these genres: the style may be old, but the production is, largely, more modern. If you were looking for a one word review then it would have to be “solid”. Nothing on the album is here just for the ride, and picking highlights is difficult; not because they’re hard to find, but rather because the quality is so consistent. Perhaps ‚The Dreamers‘ or ‚Razor’s Edge‘ might be good starting points, although ‚Zeitgeist‘, with its Kraftwerk electronics, is another worth giving a shout-out to.
As a rule, ‚The Age Of Illusion‘ veers more towards the commercial end of the spectrum than the experimental side, so potential enjoyment may depend on how alternative your tastes go. Perhaps the line “other people’s lives are more interesting than ours” could be a bit close to the bone in that respect, but the actual song (‚Other People’s Lives‘) is a driving and, that word again, solid track that has touches of The Cult and even the early work of Simple Minds or U2, both of whom would go on to become repugnant, despite getting off to good starts. The only real flaw with these 10 tracks is that it feels more like there are about 15 due to the fact that they seem to have set themselves the challenge of making everything at least four minutes in length. Trimming a minute or so off a lot of the songs would arguably make for a more rewarding listen. More anthemic numbers like ‚Perfect Storm‘ are fine as they are though, and with numerous contemporaries returning in recent years with slightly underwhelming offerings, you’d have to say that B-Movie have made their comeback a worthwhile one.[ — Kev W / SoundsXP }
I have to start this review with something of a confession, I really don’t know much about B-Movie other than the fact that they are one of the bands featured on the Some Bizarre compilation – which was released to showcase the emerging generation of electronic acts back in 1981. The album also featured Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and Blancmange) – and their underground US hit ‚Nowhere Girl‘.
B-MOVIE – The Age of Illusion (2014)
As a result I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about who B-Movie remind me of on this new album, ‚The Age of Illusion‘, the band’s second album and their first new material for over twenty-five years. I realise that comparisons can be misleading therefore it may, or may not, be useful to know that I wrote down Simple Minds, John Foxx, Furniture and The Stranglers.
Simple Minds I’ve included because, in their earlier material in particular, they very neatly combine electronics with rock which is something that runs through ‚The Age of Illusion‘ and is particularly evident in tracks like ‚Other People’s Lives‘ and ‚To the Ends of the Earth‘.
John Foxx is there because I can hear him in a lot of the vocal performances on songs like ‚Echoes‘ and ‚The Dreamers‘ but also musically on the tracks that take a more overtly electronic approach such as the atmospheric, hypnotic ‚Dark Lines‘ and the sweeping, glacial ‚She’s A Car Crash‘.
Furniture and The Stranglers made the list because I wanted to describe Steve Hovington’s vocal style because that’s so important to the overall sound of the album. He has a voice that is deep, rich and emotional which that, for me, recalled firstly Furniture on their hit ‚Brilliant Mind‘, and then Hugh Cornwell on The Stranglers‘ slower, more moody and atmospheric tracks like ‚European Female‘ or ‚Midnight Summer’s Dream‘.
For me ‚The Age of Illusion‘ is a little of all those things without being a copy of any of them, but perhaps it’s more important to put comparisons to one side and just say this is one of my favourite records this year.