ABC: ABRACADABRA (1991)
1) Love Conquers All; 2) Unlock The Secrets Of Your Heart; 3) Answered Prayer; 4) Spellbound; 5) Say It; 6) Welcome To The Real World; 7) Satori; 8) All That Matters; 9) This Must Be Magic.
The sea horse on the album cover is just about the best thing about this album, if you favour exotic life forms in the first place. As for the music — there is hardly anything exotic about these songs. The duo's move to EMI accomplished nothing whatsoever, except providing them with one more kind chance to prove their usefulness in the post-New Wave era, and, accordingly, they blew it one more time.
Just like Up, this is a personality-deprived, instantly forgettable collection of dance tunes, not all of them entirely hopeless, but all of them eventually merging into a single mass of similar «modern R'n'B» grooves. One of the singles, 'Say It', is «innovative» in that it combines a disco bass line with a techno rhythm — apparently, though, instead of finding a way to multiply two negatives, they add them up, and the results are predictable.
The music is pretty much non-existent — most of the «melodies» are just simple synth loops tacked on to drum machines — and Martin Fry, as a bleak shadow of his former personality, only maybe appears on one or two of the bleaker songs (the best moment, for me, is the itsy-bitsy roar he lets out on the chorus of 'Spellbound'; just a tiny thing, but, somehow, the most notably human moment on the entire record). But generally, the album strives way too much to be happy, and, as a result, is just cloying, like its lead single, 'Love Conquers All' (pretty discouraging title for a band who used to make its reputation with 'Tears Are Not Enough' and 'Poison Arrow').
Arguing about whether Up or Abracadabra should be considered the absolute low for the band would be a ridiculous activity, so I will just say that Up, at least, has 'Never More Than Now' and 'Paper Thin', which I could see gracing an anthology. On the other hand, Abracadabra got the sea horse, so it's up to you to decide in the end. But an egalitarian and, I believe, uncontestable thumbs down for both is in order in any case. Yuck, mainstream Nineties dance muzak.
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