I've commented on The Beat's other album, their debut, from 1979.
And the comments there could largely apply to this album.
Which means this is a splendid slice of power pop , which by it's nature is visceral, rarely dull, totally infectious and fun.
See my other comment for biographical details on Paul Collins and the Beat and on power pop generally.
In the two years between the debut and this follow up The Beat had become Paul Collins' Beat. This was not an act of narcissism but rather a means of distinguishing the band from the English ska act The Beat. Ironically, in the US the English Beat were called, errr "The English Beat".
Follow up albums (or sophomore albums as the Americans refer to them) are always difficult creatures. It goes without saying that most bands put everything good they have into their debut album meaning that material for a follow up is either scarce, of inferior quality, rushed, hasty, or otherwise lacking. Of course when you have a master tunesmith or a band with a deep well of material the second album can work but the pitfalls remain.
With indie bands there is a further difficulty. If the first album received critical or popular acclaim there is a tendency (on behalf of the major label to who they have been or are newly signed to) to slick up the production and make the sound more mainstream, bigger and potentially more marketable to the broader audience.
The danger here is that the band loses what it had and still doesn't reach a wider audience.
Mainstream labels who have signed indie bands from their debut or on the strength of their debut are rarely a nurturing lot and look at the bottom line which is money and a return on investment. It's fair to say that most indie bands who have got the goods musically have those difficulties above and only last two albums.
Paul Collin's Beat fall into that position perfectly.
This album isn't as good as it's debut though it does have many joys. It's sound is bigger, slicker and less immediate though, again, it has it's joys. But, it failed to sell so The Beat were dropped by their label.
Paul Collins went on to a marginal indie career but the shot t the big time had come to an end.
It's a pity because the album has its, as I have said, joys and it's better than a lot of other music circa 1982.
Featuring regular bassist Steve Huff, Alice Cooper (and Elton John) drummer Dennis Conway and Milk 'N' Cookies guitarist Larry Whitman. The album was produced by Bruce Botnick, (famous for his work with The Doors, Love, Marvin Gaye, Tim Buckley, Buffalo Springfield and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album).
Tracks (best in italics)
- That's What Life Is All About – A genuinely catchy song in a Buddy Holly (and Dwight Twilley) fashion although I would have liked it a little more up front and sharp.
- Dreaming – quite slick
- On The Highway – not really power pop but quite a stunning piece of moody Americana rock like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Flamin Groovies.
- Will You Listen – a thumping power pop ride.
- Crying Won't Help – wow, one foot in the early 60s – not so mush in sound but in mood and lyrics this summons up those pre Beatles American teen heartthrobs as well as the very early Beatles themselves.
- The Kids Are The Same – another great power pop tune which could be a template for the sound.
- Trapped – so so. Collins is a good vocalist (though he is perhaps limited to what he loves) but sometimes they need to bring him up front a little.
- It's Just A Matter Of Time – Dull though there is a hint of English new wave power pop in there.
- Met Her Yesterday – hmmm
- I Will Say No – a return to catchy power pop with the usual power pop boy loves girl theme on display.
Fark … the album is actually half great and it's as if it was sequenced that way. The first half is killer and then it seems to lose steam …. still, it better than most, I'm keeping it.
Nothing no where
On The Highway
Will You Listen
The Kids Are The Same
- Wikipedia: "Portions of the album The Kids Are The Same were recorded in 1980 at Twentieth Century Fox Music Scoring Stage during a Musician's Union strike against the motion-picture and television industries. The Beat is quite possibly the only Rock and Roll group to record in this historic studio".