Sometimes the song finds you.
Okay, so everybody else is writing about the Rolling Stones and how sad they are about Charlie Watts dying. Yet here I am, fulfilling the brief of this blog, writing about this strange piece of 80s flotsam just because I can't get it out of my head.
Spotify cast this song my way, on some random exercise playlist. Of course I knew it -- well, sorta -- but did I? As the kids used to say on American Bandstand, it had a great beat and I could dance to it. But that simply doesn't account for how it has lodged in my brain for the past couple of weeks. And so, apologies in advance if I am now passing that earworm on to you.
For years I've maintained that the 80s was a decade that nearly killed music. But Spotify algorithms betray me again and again, and now I have to face how much 80s music I actually do love. Not that I know much about this band, After the Fire. Wikipedia tells me they were a British prog-rock band with Christian overtones, who went New Wave around 1979. This 1982 track -- an English-language cover of an 1981 song by Austrian artist Falco -- was their one and only US hit, and they split soon after. Which is a shame, because this catchy number ticks off all the boxes on the New Wave checklist: whipsaw rhythms, synths, offbeat subject matter -- and you can't deny the hooks.
Yes, it's more than a little paranoid -- all those repeated "Don't turn arounds" and that ominous "The more you live, the faster you will die." But those of us who grew up fearing both the Nazis and the Commies easily feed into this. Downward driving melodic lines smash up against propulsive "uh-ohs." In 1982, the Cold War was still engaged, the Berlin wall was still in place. This song earns its edgy vibe.
Maybe this wouldn't have climbed the charts if the video hadn't been so stylish and cool. After all, this was the MTV era, when a snazzy video could leapfrog a song to chart success. But I don't even remember the video, and I respond like a lab rat to this song's strangulated vocals, jerky syncopations, and sexy undertone.
It makes me laugh out loud and it makes me want to dance. And in this crazy world, what more could you want?