Review Summary: It is largely unfair to dismiss AFOS as a band, purely based on their haircuts and one-hit-wonder status, as both this record and their self-titled debut are strong contenders for the best new wave albums of the 1980s that equally demand a “Listen”.
A Flock Of Seagulls (AFOS) are mostly remembered for Mike Score's unique hairstyle, rather than their music. However, the legacy of the band is one of true pioneers being one of the first New Wave bands from the United Kingdom to make an impact in America, helping to pave the way for other acts such as the Thompson Twins, Men Without Hats, Howard Jones, and Thomas Dolby.
“Listen” released in May 1983 was the follow up to their fairly successful self-titled debut released only a year earlier, which spawned the international hit “I Ran (So Far Away)” reaching Number 1 in Australia and the Top 10 in the US and New Zealand. The production of the album was once again handled by Mike Howlett (Former bass player of Gong), with the exception of the last song “(It’s Not Me) Talking” produced by Bill Nelson.
The opening track and only hit single from the album “Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)” is an excellently composed synth-pop song with guitarist, Paul Reynolds making full use of the E-Bow effect. In stark contrast, the next song “Nightmares” is dark, eerie and gloomy, sounding fairly reminiscent of early Cure or Joy Division. “Transfer Affection” is the longest track on the album clocking in at 5:23 and is another well composed unrequited ‘space aged love song’. “What Am I Supposed To Do"” showcases the underrated talents of bass player, Frank Maudsley while “Electrics” arguably the strangest sounding track on the album, humorously predicts life in the future and the widespread use of communication technologies.
Side 2 begins with “The Traveller” which features the strong pounding rhythms of drummer, Ali Score and the superb multi-layered guitar work of Paul Reynolds. “I am the Traveller, across a million miles of open, I want to get there, I want to swim in your emotion’” exclaims vocalist and keyboardist Mike Score. “2:30” is a brief ambient instrumental piece which sets up the buried gem on the album “Over The Border”. The pace of the album is then slowed right down with the powerfully sombre and penultimate track “The Fall”. The band then returns to its sci-fi roots with a re-recording of their 1981 debut single “(It’s Not Me) Talking” produced by Bill Nelson who helped greatly to inject new life into the song.
Two tracks that were excluded from the original LP version, “Committed” and “Quicksand” were released as B-sides to the two main singles, but are in no way sub-par in comparison with the album tracks, and would have made worthy additions on the original release. It is largely unfair to dismiss AFOS as a band, purely based on their haircuts and one-hit-wonder status, as both this record and their self-titled debut are strong contenders for the best new wave albums of the 1980s that equally demand a “Listen”.