Holly Johnson – Blast (Expanded Edition) (Universal/Island Dec 2010) buy
Undeniably, one of the iconic voices and personalities from 1980s fronting Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Holly gave us Blast in 1989. For many people, music and albums define a time and period in our lives, which we hang on to forever and Blast was definitely one of those for me. Heaven’s Here, Deep in Love and Perfume take me to an emotive, satisfying head-space and then on to specific rooms, houses, places, mountains and snow. Yes, snow. I can be transported to a place by a lyric. I’ve been following Holly on Twitter for a while and the news of the expanded edition got me very excited. I had the original CD in my wallet (it was one of the I selected from my collection to schleppe to other side of the world where I now live) so could play it when I wanted but as any mad collector will know, it’s about having it and obtaining the bonus tracks, some of which I never knew of.
A quick scan of the remixes shows Frankie Knuckles, Justin Strauss, Julian Mendelsohn – all faves of mine from their work with countless other artists. Frankie’s work speaks for itself, Strauss I came to through his superb remixes (I bought every 12”) of Malcolm McLaren’s “Waltz Darling” album and his remix of Luther’s “Never Too Much”, and Julian Mendelsohn, of course producing my musical icons, Pet Shop Boys, earlier albums. Added to that some b-sides appearing on CD e.g. “Beat the System” and the Hollelujah tracks and I was sold.
Lyrically, “Americanos” paints a picture of a hot, southern California with its Mexican synth horn arrangement…“blue jeans and chinos, Coke Pepsi and Oreos, movies and heroes, in the land of the free, you can be what you wanna be”. It’s an idealistic view of USA which much popular culture has referenced, but in which I hear a cynicism, or regret of missed potential.
The seeming love song “Deep In Love”, turns out to be commentary on our consumer society “Consume, Improve Your Live, Consume, Well You’ve Got Taste , Consume, What A Sales Device, Consume , You Buy So Much , Next Thing You Need Everything ,Well Times Are Hard You’ve Reached The Limit On Your Credit”
Blast is not nostalgia, it’s not an 80s revival, it’s social commentary from pop music and damn good pop at that (even 20 years on) from an artist who struck a deal to re-release this album in exchange for Frankie promotion. Plus, Holly wanted this music out of the record company archive for the fans. I’m happy with that. Looking good too Holly…