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Review: "The Age of Reason" - Bronski Beat

by David Spencer,

1984's The Age of Consent is a classic example of that era's synth-pop with a unique twist or two. Firstly there was the vocal of Jimmy Somerville, a high pitched thing of beauty, and there were the lyrics. Openly gay and proud in 1984 was brave, and Somerville's Top of the Pops appearances were seen as a revolution for the gay community. While many singers, such as Boy George and Marilyn, deliberately made their sexuality ambiguous, Bronski Beat wore theirs with no hint of disguise. Their debut album was titled The Age of Consent and adorned with a pink triangle; no hidden messages there.

That debut album also contained the wonderful Smalltown Boy, about a gay teenager leaving his family home, which propelled the band rapidly into public awareness. The singles Why?, tackling anti-gay prejudice, and the cover It Ain't Necessarily So followed into the charts. Thirty three years on Steve Bronski has decided to revisit the album, with new production and fresh vocals from Stephen Granville. But much like the original band, where the spark was gone once those unique vocals of Somerville were lost (he left after one album), most of these re-versions end up highlighting what's missing and just how good the originals are.

More interesting are the new tracks. First up is Stars, a cover of the Sylvester disco classic, which is performed here in five different mixes. A Flower for Dandara is a tribute to a murdered Brazilian transsexual and sounds fresher in its remixed version on the second CD, while I'll Be Gone demonstrates the band's love of dance explored in their later material. Overall The Age of Reason is an experiment that doesn't quite work. It's neither a new album or a re-polishing; going for one or the other would have been wiser.