ABC: UP (1989)
1) Never More Than Now; 2) The Real Thing; 3) One Better World; 4) Where Is The Heaven; 5) The Greatest Love Of All; 6) North; 7) I'm In Love With You; 8) Paper Thin.
Well, there was every chance it would come to this, so why should we be angry at all? Toying with electronic dance-pop is about as risky as living in a «bawdy house» with no knowledge of «barrier devices», if you get my meaning; you're bound to catch something, sooner or later. On Up, ABC decided to go one step further about modernizing their sound, bringing in elements of house — which could only mean one thing: the boys were no longer cutting edge at all, and, instead of coming to terms with it and continuing to live out their own dream, embarked on a pathetic recreation of somebody else's.
These here songs still have something ABC-ish about them, occasionally, but for the most part, it's just empty, lengthy, excruciatingly boring exploitation of a so-so dance groove. Forget about Anne Dudley's orchestration or Trevor Horn's quirky arrangements: even the return of «Eden» would have made Up a little less bland than it is. Worst of all is the dissipation of Fry's personal magic and charm, as the tri-unity of lyricist, singer and lady's man turns transparent against the background of beats, beats, beats and pretty much nothing else.
'One Better World' was certainly the band's most disappointing single release so far: the artistic content of the song laps at zero level, as the only thing it does is stimulate the wish to jump up and down in the utmost happy stupidity at the perspective of, one day, getting to live in "one better world", where "underneath the moon we are all the same" (why the moon, we never get to know; supposedly the song was to become the International Werewolf Anthem, but they couldn't quite understand where to mix in the howling effects).
If the other songs are slightly less yucky kiddie-happy, this does not mean they are in any way more deserving. Everything sounds plastic and silly, even stuff like 'Never More Than Now', which may be the only salvageable track here because of a classy saxophone arrangement and the only musical idea on the album which I'd call great — a hot, swinging jazz piano solo in the instrumental part, the only short moment during which Up comes alive. Well, not quite: if you have the patience to wait for it, the closing number 'Paper Thin' is somewhat of a reminder of what it was that used to make ABC into ABC, with less emphasis on dance-dance-dance, dumb falsettos and one-finger-on-a-keyboard melodies and more on Fry's decadent-critical personality.
Even so, it did not need to drag on for six minutes; it is way to "paper thin" indeed to deserve that length. And neither of the two songs are respectable enough to justify the album title — this is ever so much a thumbs down record rather than a thumbs Up one.
Check "Up" (CD) on Amazon