Spandau Ballet is sort of a weird band in terms of popularity. At the forefront of the 80’s New Romantic movement, Spandau Ballet's success was a mixed bag. They entered the British charts in 1980 with the song ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’,(which was the only good song on their debut album, Journeys To Glory
) only to have mixed results with their follow up Diamond
which was a lot stronger as a whole, but didn’t deliver much success on the charts. Hence we come to True
, which showed a stylistic change in the band’s sound and image, going for a sleek adult contemporary feel along the lines of Make it Big
era Wham!. The album’s singles garnered international success, and was the last (and perhaps, only) album to get critical acclaim.
Like so many other 80’s pop albums, True
was written with a specific goal in mind, to get singles on the charts. As an album as a whole, this makes for an unvaried batch of songs in terms of sound and composition, while not necessarily bad tracks on their own. All of these songs are essentially driven by synth sounds and bouncy basslines, which allows vocalist Tony Hadley to be put at the forefront of the mix. There is unfortunately so little variation amongst this sound combined with a strong dogma to follow traditional pop song structure that this album only works in doses.
That said, the band did manage to spew out two fantastic songs. ‘Gold’ more or less makes up for the repetitive songwriting, and showcases the best vocal performance on the album(although also some of the cheesiest back-up vocals you will ever hear). The band’s biggest hit, ‘True’ is essentially a tribute to the Marvin Gaye sound, and is a nice break as it has a somewhat different sound from the rest of the album as it’s very laid back.
The weaker songs like ‘Lifeline’ and ‘Foundation’ don’t work because of the faster, upbeat tempo the band wanted to give these songs and the annoying layered and/or backing vocals don’t help either. Though the band gets points for effort, they are simply much more effective when Hadly can sing his lungs out and sustain to his heart’s content. Though this is Spandau Ballet’s best studio album, casual fans of the band are better off buying Gold: The Best of Spandau Ballet
, a greatest hits collection.