Friday, August 24, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1173: Platinum Blonde

My weekend is off to a good start. Last night I hung out with a couple of friends and today I went for lunch with a third. Despite all this, I’m feeling a bit worn out and am looking forward to a quiet night.

Disc 1173 is… Standing in the Dark
Artist: Platinum Blonde

Year of Release: 1983

What’s up with the Cover? This cover has a lot of confusion. Where does that door go? Why am I being shushed? What are those dudes in the background pointing at?

Also of note, both guys in the background appear to have significant leg injuries. The guy on the left has applied a tourniquet and the guy on the right is clutching his knee at an awkward angle. I’d be tempted to say they were hurt in a dancing accident, but I’m not sure there is enough leg movement in eighties dancing to cause those kinds of injuries.

How I Came To Know It: This album is Sheila’s. “Standing in the Dark” was one of the seminal albums of her youth. When she was a teenager her grandma would go to Sam the Record Man (an old record store from back in the day) and buy a bunch of cassette tapes for her Christmas stocking – this was one of them. Other notable albums Sheila remembers getting this way include: Prince’s “Purple Rain”, the Police’s “Synchronicity”, and Brian Adams’ “Cuts Like a Knife”. Good job, grandma!

Sheila tells me that she played “Standing in the Dark” so heavily she wore the writing off of the side of the cassette. I believe it given how well she knows these songs.

As for me, I only know this album on CD through Sheila, who bought it two or three years ago when she was feeling nostalgic.

How It Stacks Up:  We only have on Platinum Blonde album, so it can’t stack up.

Ratings: 3 stars

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin”. This is how “Standing in the Dark” begins, which is funny because this album is really not for sitting comfortably. It is more for frenetic eighties dancing (guard your legs!), or maybe cruising the strip in your convertible.

Platinum Blonde is a Canadian New Wave/ pop band from the mid-eighties. Their style is not in my usual wheelhouse and until I reviewed this record I had never given them much thought. I was pleasantly surprised by “Standing in the Dark.” The eighties production is annoying, but the guys can play and the songs are well structured.

While the band is Canadian, lead singer Mark Holmes is English and he brings that English eighties invasion sound into the band. I could tell he was heavily influenced by David Bowie, with a lot of similar inflections in his voice. That said, he is his own man, and while it can be a bit affected, he has a nice tone to his voice that suits the music well.

The songs have that front-of-the-beat lean that is indicative of New Wave, which loads the songs with a lot of restless energy. The music is very percussion heavy, with the guitar feeling like an afterthought – a common approach to mid-eighties pop. They do it well, though and the drums have a good thump often missing from music from this era.

The opening song “Doesn’t Really Matter” was also the band’s biggest hit, but I was surprised to find it peaked on the charts at #31. I remember this song was pretty ubiquitous back in 1983 (as a heavy metal devotee at the time I hated this). Now I can appreciate the song, which has a great dystopian feel. The eighties weren’t just unbridled optimism and greed; it was a decade where we all felt like we were going to die when the Cold War went hot. This tends to makes your music a little…apocalyptic.

This comes across heavily on the record as a whole, which features songs about emotionally empty relationships, politics gone wrong and the disconnect created by an ever-rising technological world. This last item has just become more true in the intervening decades.

As for lyrics, I wasn’t terribly impressed. On the title track the boys rhyme “no prisoners” with… “no prisoners.” “Leaders in Danger” starts with:

“Disengage the reaction
Bring on the main attraction
Don’t tamper with the facts
Only opposites attract.”


Despite these missteps, the songs are catchy and beyond that, they manage to evoke a mood that overcomes a few bad rhymes.

Overall, while this isn’t an album I’ll put on very often of my own accord the last couple days have given me a deeper appreciation of its good qualities. If you like eighties New Wave and you don’t know this record, it is worth your time to check it out.

Best tracks: Doesn’t Really Matter, Standing in the Dark, Leaders in Danger, Not in Love

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