A Flock of Seagulls

Vinyl Friday #18: A Flock of Seagulls “Listen”

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If you’ve read my blog for any length of time now, you’ll know that I have a massive soft spot for A Flock of Seagulls. I’ve had my rant about “one-hit wonder” bands (which is what they are considered in America, but not in their home country of the UK), so I probably don’t need to go back down that road because I’ll never come back. They were a much disliked band at the time, understandably,but I am a woman of the modern era and I will like what I please.

Listen was released in 1983 off the back of a pretty successful first album. Though nothing they ever did would ever compete with “I Ran (So Far Away)”. It is a shame, but writing one of the most successful and iconic singles of the 80’s is nothing to sniff at.

As continued with the first album, A Flock of Seagulls continue with their spacey vibe. The songs literally have zooms and twinges from synths that are really fun to listen to in Stereo. The rumbling in the beginning of “2:30” always delights my ears because of how unusual it is. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough variation in sound that lets down the album a bit.

Now I don’t think Listen is superior to their self-titled debut, but I am particularly fond of the dream-like quality of this album. “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph)” is seriously one of my favourite songs ever. When I lived in Milwaukee I would always walk in the fog listening to this song. It touches a strange part of my heart that often makes me cry. It is a bit wasted, though, as the first song of Side A. It would have been so nice placed later as either the closing track or as a surprise tucked away in the track listing. The fourth single off the album, “(It’s Not Me) Talking” that does the closing. A cool song but the energy off that single really should have been placed elsewhere.

This copy of Listen was found in my favourite antique shop. Of course it was in my favourite booth with the mannequin lady (she’ll pop up in more stories, to be sure). This lonely soul resided in my favourite New Wave bin. A Flock of Seagulls are hardly the best in the bunch, but I could never pass up the opportunity to listen to “Wishing” on vinyl. In my searches, I’ve rarely found A Flock of Seagulls’ albums while searching in Wisconsin. I’m not sure what it’s like in the UK, but I imagine it would be a much more successful hunt.

I do love the sound of this album on vinyl. There is so much to be added by listening to it with the pops and hollowness of humming speakers. Especially the synth bits in tracks like “What Am I Supposed To Do”. This is very much a lonely album. I love crawling up to it and listening to it. I suppose the uber-80’s-ness of the album won’t be to too many people’s taste, but I will keep championing the album.

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My guilty pleasures (or lack thereof)

One of the most inescapable phrases when trying to talk to someone about music is usually something along the lines of: “Oh my god. They are my guilty pleasure.” This can be in reference to any number of musicians from boy bands to greatest hits albums. This saying has always gotten on my nerves because, get this, I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Or rather that they shouldn’t exist.

For Esquire magazine back in 2004, essayist and journalist Chuck Klosterman tackled this very subject in one of my favourite articles by him. A book was being released called The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures: 1,001 Things You Love to Hate. A silly book, but it still brings up an interesting part of our culture.

Klosterman writes, “What the authors of The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures (and everyone else who uses this term) fail to realize is that the only people who believe in some kind of universal taste—a consensual demarcation between what’s artistically good and what’s artistically bad—are insecure, uncreative elitists who need to use somebody else’s art to validate their own limited worldview.”

I openly and freely admit that I love and deeply care about A Flock of Seagulls (yes, the guys with ‘the hair’ and did that one song). In fact, many of my favourite bands are ones considered one-hit-wonders State-side. While I write this I’m listening to the Generation X ‘Anthology’ album because I love every decade of Billy Idol. Does this mean I have bad taste in music? Possibly. But I also don’t really believe in music taste being good or bad. Sometimes we just meet people who think exactly the way we do, and nothing feels better than having our thoughts validated by someone we think is cool.

I never understood why people felt the need to list their enjoyments as guilty pleasures. At what point do we need to feel bad about the things we choose to like in life? Taste is, obviously, subjective. Especially if you’re into music, there is often the pressure to like the right kind of music (if that’s even a thing). Nothing pisses me off more than someone telling me what to like.

The reasons I enjoy the Flock is because their music makes me feel like I’m slowly and sadly falling in love with someone in an 80s dream (or a John Hughes film). I like the way their music makes me feel. A lot. To some they might be cheesy and dated as hell, but that’s okay. What history says about them shouldn’t determine what I decide to drunkenly cry to.

Klosterman was perfectly right when he said, “It never matters what you like; what matters is why you like it.” 

In other news, I haven’t stop watching this all day.