Relax, It's Only Frankie Goes To Hollywood!



Frankie Goes To Hollywood:

Welcome to the Pleasuredome (ZTT Import)

In order to remember, it is sometimes necessary to revisit the scene of former crimes, old happiness, and expended excess. Once upon a time, and not so very long ago, pop music was an instrument of dissidence, rebellion, and social change. In the case of the wonderfully brief, outrageously successful and contentious Frankie Goes to Hollywood, a quarter of a century has passed since they rattled the cages, frightened the horses, and ran amok in the minds of their generation, and those older who looked on in profound but bewildered disapproval.

This timely confection of their glorious moments reminds listeners, if their memories serve them well, just what the fuss was all about, and allows the successive generations of music lovers just what they missed out on. Frankie took the Scouse irreverence of John Lennon, amped and gayed it, and with three earth-shattering singles, wrote the rule book afresh.

"Relax" remains a staggering achievement, and one that seems unlikely to be bettered. Energetic, catchy, and happy to affront, it still kicks ass. "Two Tribes," cinematic, pompous, and unapologetically angry, now sadly appropriate in our present times of Iraq and Afghanistan, nestles up perfectly to "War," Edwin Starr's soulful snarl of Motown political rage. These should find fresh earth to plow.

The band also delivered the best ballad in the business. Emotive and stirring, "The Power of Love" remains a benchmark of excellence, proof positive that this bunch of rabble-rousers deserved the attention they got, because their music cornered the imagination of their youthful hordes with songs that wouldn't wear out.

As we sink beneath the mewling gestures and instant success of the power balladering American Idol and X Factor contenders, this collection blows apart the blinkered poverty of their conformist ambitions. Perhaps such verve and determination to succeed as much as one can possibly offend belongs to a post-punk sensibility, but Frankie were contemporaries of the bland veneers of Spandau Ballet and the aspirational chic of Duran Duran.

In order to shine, one has to be consumed by the energy and fire of one's own design. Of course it couldn't last, and after just two albums, the show fell apart amidst acrimony and ever-decreasing chart positions. All that matters little now, and things stand or fall by the level of force the music still supplies.

There is a real energy to this compendium of sins revisited. Frankie Goes to Hollywood mattered then, and still matter, because these days so little concerns that kind of cutting thrust. The swaggering ambition of Holly Johnson's powerful vocals. The dizzying intensity of Trevor Horn's epic production values.

This is pop as art, the full monty, depraved and divinely decadent.