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80s Collection - Various

2007-03-19 15:42
For the record: the 80s were about fashion, politics and New Romanticism. Music moved towards singable, playable pop songs that spoke about love, getting rich and aspiring to high style. While the two CDs pack a mean pop punch, the collection is best evaluated by looking at the accompanying DVD, which contains 33 of the music videos!

Some amazing visuals are to be found in Colin Vearncombe’s “Wonderful Life” - a black and white masterpiece of shot construction and mood. The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” also keeps it interesting, playing with shadows and light to good effect. Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love is” is simply one of the most emotive videos ever made, capturing the urban loss of “Human Touch” explored later by, among others, Bruce Springsteen. And Robert Smith’s fingers nearly feel the wrath of an irritated kitten in a delightfully mental “Love Cats” (stuffed cats and all).

Some bands were typically high-concept 80s. Look to Duran Duran’s (all ages version of) “Girls on Film”, indicative as it is of that band’s implicit assertion that the stardom itself is the party, not the result of it. Champagne, yachts, and rich women indeed.

Elsewhere, the music outdoes the video effort. Level 42’s “Running in the Family” is an interesting concept that mostly works but lacks flair. ABC’s dramatic posturing can’t hide a quiver of pretentious projections on “Poison Arrow”. Styx almost make the “Mr. Roboto” concept work on video, too.

There are a few forgotten gems – especially from the Americans: Edie Brickell’s New Bohemians are barely remembered save for their landmark album and single “What I Am”. Corey Hart still makes wearing sunglasses at night sound cool. And Bobby Brown’s energised New Jack theme “My Prerogative” remains at worst a thumper of a dance single.

Give the dancercize-themed Laura Brannigan a skip, Nik Kershaw’s ‘groundbreaking effects’ a toss, Tiffany’s shopping mall teen warble the finger (thank you Stock, Aitken and Waterman), and Donna Summer’s hard working for the money a cursory glance (the most interesting thing about Summer’s video is the fact that the 7th street cinema is showing “The Outsiders” – great book, great movie).

The 80s Collection is one of the best video sets yet committed to shelves here, at least in terms of representation. But what almost negates the essential nature of the release is the shocking audio mastering. With compression hitting levels to the point of dropout, it’s all but suicide-inducing to be treated to some truly inspired visuals while your ears bleed for mercy. Imagine how amazing this disc would have been had they pushed some budget for a picture cleanup… and a proper audio treatment. As it is, it’s a more than decent buy, but dammit, we aspired to better products in the 80s, didn’t we?

- Anton Marshall
Though it became fashionable to write off the 80s as “cheesy”, “kitsch” or just plain “bad”, the truth is that some of pop’s greatest and most enduring moments came from that decade. Why else would modern popdom be plundering hooks, samples and even entire songs from that decade ad nauseam? We’re looking at you, popstars – all of you!

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