More than just another 80s Synth-Pop Sounding Group
L.A. Scene | Indian Trail, NC USA | 10/27/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"My first exposure to General Public came in 1984. I was listening to the original WKTU radio in New York City and this song called "Tenderness" came on then. At the time, this radio station was the "Disco/Dance" radio station in New York. What I distinctly remember about this station was that it was a very different song than the dance numbers that were typically played on this station. Nonetheless, this song caught my attention as well as the attention of many other fans. It turns out that this was a true "crossover" song done by the group General Public. It was part of a collection of ten songs that could easily fall into the "crossover" 80s/Techno-Pop category from General Public's debut album "All The Rage".
In the mid 1980s, the term "Supergroup" became very popular. A Supergroup is basically a group or project whose primary members were in other successful bands. The two most common Supergroups were the Power Station and Mike + The Mechanics. Before either or these Supergroups, there was a Supergroup called General Public. When the English Beat disbanded, vocalists Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger decided to form a new band. They recruited keyboardist Micky Billingham and drummer Andy "Stoker" Growcott from Dexy's Midnight Runners. Also recruited was bassist Horace Painter ("The Specials") and guitarist Kevin White. Both The English Beat and Dexy's Midnight Runners produced a most unique 80s pop sound that has almost become synonymous with the decade itself. Make no mistake about this, the sounds of both of these groups are alive and well with this "alliance". In a lot of ways the formation of this alliance results in so much more than "80s music".
Here is a quick synopsis of the album song by song: "Hot You're Cool": This might not be the deepest song in terms of lyrics, but there is a lot more than just an 80s sound on this particular track. There is some terrific saxophone work that makes the melody so terrific.
"Tenderness": This is the signature song of the group. There are a lot of reasons this became the signature song. You will hear Wakeling and Roger's trademark vocals, - but you will hear contributions from just about everyone in the band. I think Billingham's keyboards, Painter's bass, and White's guitar deserve a lot of credit. Justine Carpenter does the background vocals (i.e. "Where is the...") that make this song so special. As mentioned above, this is a crossover song - although I see it more as a Dance song.
"Anxious": Although not the strongest track, here is another track that breaks the 80s mold. This song features a brass section of some trumpet and trombone that helps distinguish it from many other 80s tracks.
"Never You Done That": This was the second single released from this album. Here is a song that definitely walks the tightrope between rock and dance music. This is a pretty good track and the more you hear it, the more you will want to hear it.
"Burning Bright": This is the second best song behind "Tenderness". I am very surprised this song didn't get more airplay. This song opens with some outstanding guitar with a light keyboard overtone. "Stoker"'s drumming is strongest on this track. There is a 1 minute introduction. This isn't as much of an 80s Techno-Pop track as the others, but has much more of a progressive rock sound. This is the song that has the lines "From Moscow to Monterey and From Maine to Mexico" that is printed on the back of the CD.
"As a Matter of Fact": I don't think this is the strongest track, but it isn't a bad track. This song moves back toward the Techno-Pop sound and has much more of a Dance Music feel to it. "Stoker" shines here again with some nice drum work on here.
"Are You Leading Me On": From a lyric and melody standpoint - this song starts out with a Classic 80s Techno-Pop feel to it. About 90 seconds into the song there is a terrific reggae sequence that is a nice change of pace. General Public finds a great way to integrate the reggae into the song and they switch gears flawlessly.
"Day to Day" also starts with a Classic 80s feel to it. Unlike "Are You Leading Me On", it doesn't switch gears. It sticks to the Classic 80s feel. I would say this is the weakest track on the collection.
"Where's the Line": Terrific mix of 80s music with a Carribean Twist. This is a very catchy song and one that is good for the dance floors. Vocals are in top form and once again the horns find their way into a track.
"General Public": I think its great when a group names after song after themselves (or names the group after the song). This song is the perfect wrap-up song. It is a mix of some theatrical qualities and a very European sound. This song too is pretty catchy.
The liner notes contain all of the lyrics to all of the songs. All participating musicians are listed in the credits as well along with some of the production credits. The one drawback of the liner notes is that the lyrics and credits are put into 6 thin columns per page. The result is small fonts and very difficult to read. Following this debut album, General Public's subsequent albums would never achieve the success of this debut album from both a commercial or critical standpoint. Much of this was due to the fact that in the late 80s and early 90s, the music landscape would change and move away from synth-pop to a more natural Rock Sound. However, this is more than just another 80s album - there is some real talent on this collection. You will get so much more than the song "Tenderness". I highly recommend this collection."
Still sounds completely fresh in the year 2000
Mig P. | Sunnycupertoga, CA USA | 03/03/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Both this album and GP's later "Hand To Mouth" are simply a delight, light years above not just the schlock from the 80's, but above even the good stuff as well. Dave's voice is a slice of heaven and his lyrics are razor-sharp, filled with clever metaphors and double-meanings. (Example: "your friends get laid on stony ground"). Roger's harmonies play off him very well too. Musically, the songs are surprisingly intricate. For instance, "Never You Done That" has a structure much more complex than a standard pop song-- yet manages to be incredibly stick-in-your-brain catchy at the same time. And "Anxious" can't decide whether it is a pop song or a reggae song-- which is what makes it so great, because it is both at the same time. And who could forget the all-time classic "Tenderness", alone worth the price of the album. This album is essential if you're into 80's, and nevertheless a complete treat if you're not. DON'T MISS IT!"
From the 80's to now, these guys are......all the rage.
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Risen from the ashes of the Beat, most eclectic and possibly most musically competent of all the 2 Tone posses, Dave and Roger skrunched their way back into rock music with this gem. As the saying goes, "If they hadn't existed, someone would have had to invent them". General Public demonstrate clearly what pop music COULD be, if it makes the effort.Challenging, insightful and NEVER an insult to your intelligence. "All the Rage "showcases their creative musicianship to the full, weaving subtle rhythms and melodies with irrepressible dance beats (just check out Anxious and Never You Done That). The lyrical content is superb - acute and incisive political and social commentary,(Where's The Line, As A Matter of Fact) aeons away from the intellectually barren pop of recent years. Dave and Roger have two of the sharpest lenses for social commentary you'll find anywhere in rock music. Combine this with their ear for a brilliant tune, and you have the consummate band. If you buy one album this year, make it this one."
Too damn good not to have
Kelly Christopher (firstname.lastname@example.org | Houston, TX | 12/27/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I came of age in the eighties, and this is one of the albums I cut my teeth on. This is smart power pop on par with Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, with ska inflections that will make your leg twitch. In fact, the toughest thing about listening to this album is figuring out whether to groove to the music or soak up the lyrics. I would give it five stars, but there are a few weaker tracks. But 'Never you done that','Tenderness', and 'Where's the line' make up for those. If you like ska, eighties music, or good, smart lyrics, I STRONGLY recommend "All The Rage"."