ABC: TRAFFIC (2008)
1) Sixteen Seconds To Choose; 2) The Very First Time; 3) Ride; 4) Love Is Strong; 5) Caroline; 6) Life Shapes You; 7) One Way Traffic; 8) Way Back When; 9) Validation; 10) Lose Yourself; 11) Fugitives; 12) Minus Love.
The ABC anabasis continues into the 21st century with the help of VH1's Bands Reunited, a Mephistophelian show that tried to bribe former bands into reuniting, but, for the most part, only succeeded with those bands that were crappy in the first place. In the case of ABC, they only managed to convince ex-drummer David Palmer to join up with Fry (understandably, drummers generally tend to be more pliable than band members that occupy the front of the stage), but somehow this led to a permanent reunion of the two, followed by a new «ABC» tour — and, in four years time, a new ABC album.
Because of all the «reunion» business, and also due to old friend Gary Langan also returning to produce the album, Traffic got generally benevolent reviews, some even hinting that, finally, nearly thirty years after the fact, ABC managed to come up with a true successor to Lexicon Of Love. I honestly believe most of these people simply missed out on the much less advertised Skyscraping. ABC is simply not ABC without a strong dose of the head-in-the-clouds factor, and Skyscraping had that in spades, starting from the album cover and all over the actual songs.
In comparison, Traffic is a grittier, more hard-rocking, heavy-beat-oriented affair that is very likely influenced by the post-punk scene — everything from Franz Ferdinand to Arctic Monkeys and beyond. After the ethereal atmosphere of 'Stranger Things' that ignited things in classic ABC mode on Skyscraping, the rough, almost garage-style 'Sixteen Seconds To Choose' that opens Traffic is the last thing you'd expect of Martin Fry — sounds more like modern day Alice Cooper, if you ask me. It's not bad at all — it kicks some impressive ass in its bullying glamminess, even though the chorus line "Prestige, power, money, money, money" seems quite hammy. It simply tempts one into asking: WHY?
There are a few songs here that carry on little quanta of classic ABC frailty — 'Love Is Strong', for instance; 'Validation' and 'Minus Love', too... perhaps. But they are not very memorable. It is as if all the songs on here are strictly separated into those that are powered by instrumental hooks (most of the «rocking» stuff) and those powered by Fry's charisma (the «tender», «frail» stuff), but at their best, ABC could have both at once, and Traffic is not quite up to the task.
Still, it sounds good: guitars and keyboards are mixed in satisfactory proportions, and, of all the songs, only 'Caroline' sounds dangerously close to «adult contemporary» — big, big kudos to Fry, actually, for not succumbing to the temptation of clouding his Mystifying Vocals in Enigmatic Synthesizer Clouds. 'Validation' may not be a great song, but it is so nice to be able to get to the instrumental break and hear an acoustic guitar solo underpinned by an electric organ rhythm track where a less taste-oriented guy would prefer Kenny G-ish sax against a background of Casios.
All said, I do not guarantee that fans of classic ABC will inevitably want to adopt Traffic, and it is also possible that big personal fans of Martin Fry will be disappointed with his modest presence. But it's okayish, B-level 21st century pop that won't embarrass your 21st century speakers.
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