That was then, but this is now
June 11, 2006 Story By Andy Argyrakis
In the "blast from the past" category, one band that hasn't been heard from in ages is ABC. The Martin Fry led organization ruled the club charts throughout most of the 1980s thanks to its neo-romantic leanings with new wave undertones, but failed to prosper beyond the decade of decadence to the degree of like minded poppers the Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and Erasure. The Good Luck JoesThough there was a blip on the radar screen resurgence in 1997 with the U.K. only release Skyscraping and its subsequent live CD The Lexicon of Live, ABC has basically been chained to retro radio and VH1 Classic ever since.
But Fry and his new backers have sought yet another comeback, since after all, the danceable 80s are backed in full force, leading a slew of broken up bands to hit the concert circuit again. And from a strictly nostalgic point of view, the guys succeeded, recalling its pulsating catalogue with live instruments rather than strictly synthesizers and drum machines. Attention was placed on the prominent early on in the tightly packed 75-minute show with one of ABC's most memorable singles "Poison Arrow" taking third in order. Its singer has aged gracefully, sporting his usual debonair glow and sleek suit, conjuring up visual (as well as vocal) references to Roxy MusicABC fashion plate Bryan Ferry. From there it was a gleeful trip down memory lane with the tongue and cheek "How To Be a Millionaire," the dramatic "The Night You Murdered Love," the jazz hinted "Be Near Me" and the obligatory encore "The Look of Love."
While it was delightful to hear such selections performed cohesively, others lacked the staying power and came across dreadfully dry. The unity based "One Better World" was loaded with cheesy keyboard parts that sounded like a cheap Vegas lounge band and ditched the other tracks' class, while its follow-up "Tears Are Not Enough" also suffered from dated stains. Though the group made a valiant effort to introduce a handful of new tracks, none seemed appropriate in current times, either amping up with unnecessary aggression or lacking the immediacy of ABC's catalogue. During one of these guitar driven tunes ("Ride"), Fry was comparing a relationship to a car's ignition and implied what it would be like to drive it all night long, surely an appropriate statement twenty years ago when he was a youngster, but not so fitting as a middle aged crooner. In that sense, the group isn't likely to reclaim its heyday, though can probably coast a few more years as a finely tuned jukebox worthy of some sing-a-longs and smiles.
Tour mates The Good Luck Joes turned in a 40-minute, ten track warm up, scoring quite an enthusiastic crowd giving its Milwaukee roots and forthcoming CD release What Do You Think Of That Noise? (hitting stores July 11). However, whoever booked these two groups together must have been going for a complete contrast because they weren't even remotely similar to the ABC sound. Instead the group turned in an alternative pop/rock set that straddled the lines between the pedestrian basicness of Better Than Ezra, Sister Hazel and Tonic, with the more moving and melodic piano dynamics of Coldplay and Keane. In the first category, cuts like "No You Don't" and "48 Hours" were as average as average could be, never moving beyond the sanitary even in the midst of audience approval. However, when the keyboards truly settled in on the closer "Middle of Me," the guys demonstrated a much more fleshed out feel that strayed away from the ordinary towards a truly vibrant platform. If The Good Luck Joes continue going in that direction, they'll be golden, though as it stands right now, they need to shed the college rock commonplace.