Alphaville – Strange Attractor
Sadly often miscast as a one hit wonder, Alphaville is a band that has never quite been given their due. Yes their amazing and anthemic song “Forever Young” has an ingrained popularity and familiarity heard in film soundtracks and at proms across the country and presumably the world. But the band has so much more to offer and the truth is that there were plenty of other songs on their synthpop masterpiece of a debut album that were popular at the time. “Big In Japan”, “Sounds Like A Melody” and “The Jet Set” singles and even album cuts “Summer In Berlin” and “Victory Of Love”, all from the Forever Young album got plenty of play in clubs and bars. “Dance With Me” and “Red Rose” from their follow up album both had a similar effect as did “Romeos” from their third album, albeit to a lesser extent.
All of this is to say that even though their last three albums didn’t really register in the US their first three did have measurable impact beyond the “Forever Young” single. I actually love their entire catalog. To me they always embodied the sound of a synth wave European opera with superb bright production and soaring vocals. Whether singing about the seven seals and scarlet beast of the end times on 1994’s “Fools” or talking to dolphins in a city on the moon in 1989’s “Sensations” their sensibilities and Marian’s lyrics have always spoken to me.
Its no surprise then that from the first listen I have been bowled over by their newly released seventh album, Strange Attractor. When sole remaining original band member Marian Gold starts the album singing in a deep drone “I hate to sleep, but I love to dream” I know that I am in for another true Alphaville style journey. From “Marionettes With Halos” dissing today’s fake YouTube stars to the obsessive love of “Beyond The Laughing Sky” this album hits all the right points. The surprising standout here is “A Handful Of Darkness”, the album’s bleakest but most soulful and powerful track which echoes a cry lost in spiritual darkness and questioning. For a synth hook based band Alphaville has always been somewhat profound. Here themes of loneliness and the circular nature of time run even deeper than usual in their work, as well as my favorite concept of theirs, a sleepless yet dream filled life. “The books on the wall dream ominous dreams and armies of shadows are walking off their pages.”