Isn’t it strange that something from decades prior can seem to foretell the sound of some modern music when, in actuality, that contemporary music is a throwback to an earlier sound?
As I write this, we are still deep in the throes of 80’s nostalgia. Having lived through that decade, I now understand why my parents’ generation were so bemused by my generation’s nostalgia for the 60’s.
A lot of modern pop music is obviously influenced by early synth pop. And yet, I finally became acquainted with an album from 1983 that appeared to be so prescient that I kept forgetting I wasn’t listening to something made today.
Naked Eyes were a UK duo, with one guy handling all the instruments (mostly keyboards) and another guy doing the vocals. This was a common arrangement back then, but it still was startling, since you couldn’t have had such a full sound from only two people before the age of synthesizers and sequencers.
Their debut album was titled Burning Bridges in their homeland, where it flopped completely. In the US, that same album lost a couple of tracks, was re-sequenced, given a new title (Naked Eyes) and cover, and it went on to become a moderate success there. It spawned two big, but not monster, hit singles.
Those singles were the original composition “Promises, Promises” and a cover of Burt Bacharach’s “Always Something There To Remind Me”. I find it odd Naked Eyes is regarded as a one-hit wonder, when both songs fared nearly equally well. Perhaps those singles were just close enough together in their release windows for most people to not notice the transition from one track to the other. As for myself, I keep thinking they were one-hit wonders, and I loved both of those songs back then.
Which is odd, because I never owned either single, let alone the album. Not sure what prompted me to rectify this, but I half-heartily acquired the UK deluxe edition CD on the Cherry Pop label. Much to my considerable surprise, a have been playing this in near-constant rotation since.
Most of the albums of this style from the early 80’s were often spotty. And if they weren’t peppered with subpar tracks, you were still likely to get nine or so songs that sound nothing like the single you loved.
Burning Bridges turns out to be the exception to that rule. This is an extremely solid set of tracks, all of which are along the lines of what you would come to expect from the singles. I could kick myself for all the albums I wasted my hard-earned paper route money back in the day, when I could have bought this one, instead.
There are even some songs I would have issued as singles before choosing the ones that became so popular. “When The Lights Go Out” may be my favorite track here, and it is slotted in the dire penultimate position, the second-to-last selection, where most acts bury the worst song.
Even the bonus material is strong, not the least of which is Jellybean’s remix of “Promises, Promises”. That producer’s girlfriend at the time asked to add vocals to it so, to my considerable surprise, this remix features guest vocals from Madonna.
Simply put, I love this album, and this is one exceedingly easy album to fall in love with. Warm synths, a slightly cool detachment and melodies you can actually whistle. Funny how something can be right there in the open your entire life, and not realize how perfect it is for you.