In case you weren’t paying attention, 1983 had three albums of varying degrees of quality that all get derided as Kraftwerk-lite, usually by so-called and self-proclaimed ‘serious music listeners’ to show how much more serious they are about it than you. And though Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark earned (welcomed, even) the comparison because of the use of robotic vocals on Dazzle Ships, the comparison doesn’t quite make sense regarding either of Eurythmics’ albums that year, because what they did was shorten Kraftwerk’s generally long songs and emphasized humanity by having a really enthusiastic and energetic and elastic singer. In other words, at their best, Eurythmics created songs that were much catchier than the catchiest Kraftwerk songs.
Unfortunately, everything else that has been written about Eurythmics is true: they don’t have a single great album, and Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) – their best album – is no exception. Frustratingly, they simply had no idea what they were doing in 1983, evidenced by the fact that they decide “This Is the House” and “The Walk” were to be the album’s lead singles instead of picking songs that capitalized on the hookiness of In the Garden‘s “Never Gonna Cry Again” (which charted really, really modestly at #63); y’know, instead of picking the obvious two. And they kept writing songs of the two opposite styles, that is to say, songs that belong in the club and songs for the walk home from the club, even though they were much better at the former (though not necessarily weak at the latter which comprises most of the album; more on that latter). And then they did the damnest thing of creating another album in 1983 instead of waiting it out another year (which would have been acceptable) (and tightening that one up) … sometimes I nut thinking about the great album you could have if you smashed Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and Touch together.
Anyway, the problem with a lot of the not-big-two songs is that, despite shortening the average Kraftwerk song length, they still didn’t shorten them quite enough, probably because neither of them came up with enough good basslines or interesting drumming (“Jennifer” and “This City Never Sleeps” are the biggest offenders). (Conversely, the only negative thing I have to say about “I’ve Got An Angel” is that it just suddenly ends.) But most of the songs are worth keeping around for a hook or another detail or sometimes both. Actually, all of the songs except “Wrap It Up,” which is the dictionary definition of 80s-sounding (or dated, if you prefer) if there ever was one. Both “I Could Give You (A Mirror)” and “This is the House” come with indelible horn lines (with the latter replete with the album’s best bassline). The choruses of “Somebody Told Me” have Annie Lennox becoming sass incarnate and has a flayed guitar solo that makes the preceding “oh well” bridge worth it, a bridge that otherwise knocks the song’s momentum a bit and doesn’t have the payoff it vaguely promises. And despite what I wrote about “Jennifer” and “This City Never Sleeps,” they’re gorgeously textured and well-sung by Ms. Lennox.
But “Love Is a Stranger” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” are gold, with the former that’s better than the latter because it has the vocal performance of a lifetime. I mean, seriously: the stretch from 1:48 – 2:06 of that song is too good, and I’d quote Lennox’s lyrics too if I thought quoting it would do them justice, but really, you have to really listen to it so you can hear the buildup to her dropping her register and groaning “ZOMBEHHHHHHHH!!!” like a zombie might. And though arguably, “Love is a Stranger” doesn’t have as large as hook (referring to either Anne’s hook or David’s synth line) as “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” it does have the manly grunts propelling it and vocal harmonies that do more than just merely harmonize. As for “Sweet Dreams,” it’s a great song. The “Some of them want to use you / Some of them want to get used by you / Some of them want to abuse you / Some of them want to be abused by you” choruses remind me of 50 Shades of Grey. Which is why I’m writing this review right now. “My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.”
So basically, what George Starostin said: “Fifty percent commercial, fifty percent aspiring to something other than making money; exceptional vocalist, surreal lyrics, dumb synthesizer ringtones, annoying Latin influences, and moody Kraftwerk-inspired soundscapes. One thing you couldn’t accuse them of is lack of creativity. The bottomline, then, is that not all the melodies are strong, and that in their search for “accessibility” they have, as paradoxal (sic) as it may sound, become less accessible.”
An empathic B+, and if this had “Here Comes the Rain Again” instead of “Wrap It Up,” I’d have no problem giving it an A-; happy Valentine’s day, everyone.