Title: Drastic Plastic
Artist: Be-Bop Deluxe
Release date: February 1978
Quality information: 320 (CBR)
Genre: New Wave
Size: 96.47mb/11 songs
Love in Flames
Panic in the World
Superenigmatix (lethal appliances for the home with everything)
Visions of Endless Hopes
Islands of the Dead
Be-Bop Deluxe was the brainchild of talented singer/songwriter Bill Nelson. Formed in 1972, it wasn't until 1974 that they released their first album, Axe Victim, with it's distinctive 'skull guitar' cover.
After a successful tour with the up-and-coming Cockney Rebel, Bill Nelson completely revamped the band, settling on the new line-up of New Zealander Charlie Tumahai (bass), Simon Fox (drums) and Andrew Clark (keyboards).
The band's reputation for melodic rock augmented by Bill Nelson's distinctive guitar playing, soon gained them many fans right up to their break-up in 1978.
Bill Nelson went on to form Red Noise, but they only lasted long enough to release one album, 'Sound on Sound'. Since then, he has continued as a solo artist & producer.
Bill Nelson has never been content simply to tread water by repeating a previously successful formula, and the transformation of his band Be Bop Deluxe from straight rock to post-punk minimalism is completed with this, their final album before he split the group and formed the experimental but short-lived Red Noise. After the guitar excesses of Axe Victim and Futurama, Be Bop began to attract attention in the USA, and Nelson, who's no fool, must have realised there was a good chance of his band becoming very big over there had he continued in the same vein. To his credit, he put artistic integrity and his desire to experiment ahead of the lure of the dollar, and Drastic Plastic, released in 1978, is certainly very different from those first two albums four years earlier, although 1976's Modern Music had showed the direction in which the band was heading. Even so, the album must have surprised many fans; the word "drastic" is not misplaced. The tender lyrics directed towards his wife Jan have largely been replaced by descriptions of a confusing and sometimes frightening new world. Musically, it's stark, black and white, with most tracks having a relentless rhythm that's repetitive, but never in a boring way; rather, one feels comforted by the hypnotic feel. Electrical Language welcomes you in, its lyrics consisting of the same four lines repeated, mantra-like. After two more fairly intense songs, there's some light relief given by the delightfully odd Surreal Estate, with its see-sawing, piano-led tune and Whistle While You Work coda. Love in Flames is the hardest, most aggressive and guitar-based track, somehow reminding me of early Stranglers. Panic in the World and Dangerous Stranger, the former borrowing the riff from Bowie's Heroes, continue the "Brave New 1984" theme, then comes the extraordinary Superenigmatix, subtitled Lethal Appliances for the Home with Everything, in which machines have apparently taken us over. Its lilting piano is abruptly hijacked by barked, staccato lyrics.
A dramatic change of style arrives with the slow, hesitant instrumental Visions of Endless Hopes, recorded outdoors. Listening to its fragile, fractured beauty, you can almost feel the sun's warmth. The respite is brief, however: Possession returns us to crisp, rapid rhythms and more paranoia about inanimate objects ("I think machines and clocks have secret motives") then comes what was the final track on the original album, Islands of the Dead, written by Nelson as a reaction to the death of his father. It's a slow, gentle song, mixing sadness and hope, and is quite a relief, an easing of all the tension that's preceded it. Drastic Plastic deserves great credit for the sheer bravery of its change of style from previous works. Few other albums have shown a comparable shift: Sergeant Pepper, of course, Talking Heads' Remain in Light, Bowie's Low....Talking of which, the NME once said of Low that however long ago it was made, it would always sound like the future. No less a compliment can be paid to this album.