Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Midweek Flashback: Breakfast Club

By Rick Shithouse

A couple of years ago we had the first Midweek Flashback post on Synthetix.FM where I had a closer look at The System and their then new album. My intention was to devote this kind of post to 80s bands and artists who were still releasing music with a bit of a retrospective on their 80s product as well. It's unfortunate that most producers who made classically 80s music in the decade itself have moved on; with the exception of some Italo producers and the last OMD record, I've been hard up finding any bands from the 80s still rockin the same kind of vibes.

In the case of this Midweek Flashback it's a slightly different proposal, however, as this time we're covering new music that was written in the 80s but hasn't been released until now. I find this even more special as being such an aficionado of the decade means hearing new-old music; especially from a band a greatly enjoy, is a genuinely electrifying experience.

In the case of the new Breakfast Club EP, Percolate, it spans their 87-89 period with a selection of five tracks. Now, just to back peddle a bit, if you aren't aware of who Breakfast Club are here's their iconic 'Right On Track' single from 1987 jog your memory.

This song exemplifies so much of what I love about the 80s and it was an instant favourite song and video. The video is still one of the most-80s videos you'll ever see but the magic of the music is what makes it rock so hard. Breakfast Club had other great tracks too that unfortunately never reached the success of 'Right On Track', particularly 'Rico Mambo' and another favourite of mine 'Expressway To Your Heart'. Breakfast Club's tunes always have an exciting mix of pop, funk and R&B sounds that have a genuinely whimsical and straight up 'fun' nature to them. The infectious melodies were complemented by clever lyrics and the grooves were guaranteed to make the their music super dancefloor friendly.

This period for pop music in the late 80s was an incredibly pivotal one as new R&B influences courtesy of the likes of Janet Jackson's Control and Whitney Houston's self titled debut crossed over with pop, funk and dance music and mixed in all new ways. Not to mention the fledgling electronic dance music scenes and the wider accessibility of hip-hop records. This made for some very individualised styles and sounds for a few years before everything changed in the early 90s. I, personally, find the more AOR oriented pop from this period my favourite. The likes of Go West, Mike and the Mechanics, Level 42, Living In A Box, Johnny Hates Jazz, et al brought a more sophisticated sound to the pop charts. The later 80s records from Spandau Ballet, Simple Minds and Human League also followed in this manner, essentially providing a more 'mature' sound for their now more mature audience from the early 80s.

But, much of the 'fun' of the earlier parts of the decade were losing popularity in this period. R&B was getting dirtier, pop was getting angstier and rock was getting grungier. The whole concept of fun music started becoming irrelevant in this time and a palpable seriousness replaced it instead. The climax of this, of course, was Milli Vanilli's public defrocking and shaming after the 'shocking realisation' came out that they were merely the front piece for the act and had nothing to do with the writing of performing. Funny how the same mastermind (Frank Farian) behind Milli Vanilli did exactly the same thing with Boney M in the late 70s and no one really seemed to care and Boney M are still a beloved icon of the disco era. Timing is everything it would appear; especially true in the music industry, but pop was never really the same after this.

In a roundabout way that brings me back right on track to the Breakfast Club's Percolate EP. The fun and groove and good times are back in vogue with five pieces of pop you'll find infectious and entertaining as the clock turns back to this time for an all new experience. The lead track off Percolate, 'Court Of Love' sets a scene both familiar and brand new at the same time. The Breakfast Club magic hits quick and hard as the bassline zooms into an opening chorus you'll be singing along to the next time you hear it.

One of the things I really miss about the 80s are lyrics that are as fun as they are cleverly written, the delightful 80s naivete is so underappreciated today. 'Court Of Love' is a wonderful example of how the 80s got this so rockin much. Like 'Right On Track' the story told is that thrill of the chase for that one girl you dearly want but plays it half hard to get, half not interested. A piece of classically 80s pop magic indeed.

The EP follows up 'Court Of Love' with my favourite track of the five 'Mirage'. The catchiness of this song is incredibly strong, from the xylophonic melody accents to a chorus bridge that would do Hall and Oats in their finest hour proud. The playfulness of the melody gets great support from the brass back up and, as always, the vocal performance from Dan Gilroy provides that soulfully true and smooth aesthetic that's a hallmark of the Breakfast Club sound.

'Can't Put My Finger On It' sounds like it might have been one of the later tracks as it goes for a more R&B/Funk aesthetic from the later 80s and has just enough New Jack Swing to distance itself from a track from an earlier period. The guitars and brass provide a vibrant soundstage that feels electric and energetic while the vocals croon smoothly. This continues into the next track, 'It Just Don't Get Any Better' as Breakfast Club go just a little ballad-y but prove even in this atmosphere they can't help rockin that 80s fun and playfulness. There's any Amy Grant kind of accessibility to this song that makes sure you get the sentiment but not at the expense of the fun.

The EP closes with another strong jam, 'Hello' with some of the catchiest arrangements that glide with a rockin flow and bassline groove you'll find wholly engaging. The heavy keyboard lead provides the soul while the strings add just enough disco to making dancing a necessity. As with all the tracks on this EP, and Breakfast Club's sound in general, the songwriting and polish makes the music shine in all of its aspects.

I really loved going through this EP, it brought back memories of the 80s as well as making new ones and that is truly rockin to the max. The Percolate EP comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM and is available on iTunes here, Amazon here as well as Spotify here. For all the future developments with Breakfast Club (and another EP is promised soon!) be sure to Like their page on Facebook here. Also, they are looking for video producers to work with, so if you're interested please message them via their Facebook page. Definitely and exciting project I can't wait to see the results of!

I'd like to thank Breakfast Club's Stephen Bray for reaching out to Synthetix.FM to let me know about this release, I hope this becomes something a tad more regular as I'd expect there's a lot music recorded in the 80s from artists we love that remains unreleased. The more these artists know that there's a loving and appreciative market for these sounds the more it will hopefully happen.

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