years since their last studio album, Berlin is back! And they're
back with a vengeance.
Berlin was a major force in shaping the sound and identity of music during
of the eighties while at the same time remaining true to their own voice
and not catering to mainstream pop. There was that one exception
with the run away hit, "Take My Breath Away." However, if I remember
right, the band made it known that they were not happy with the song and
practically disowned it. But with songs like "Metro," "Masquerade,"
"Sex. I'm A...," "All Tomorrow's Lies" and many others, that one offense
was easily forgiven. Their subject matter was in direct contrast
with the fluff that littered much of the eighties. Many of their
songs dealt with betrayal and a disdainful contempt of societal appearances
and facades. One song in particular, "It's A Matter Of Time," was
a haunting warning of how you can't waste your time because you can't get
it back. To many, their music was about grabbing life for everything
it offered and throwing away all pretenses. It ranged from explosive
in-your-face techno-rock to lamenting ballads.
The band's lead singer, Terri Nunn, whose
voice is the definition of sex, challenged the ear of a conservative and
arguably innocent era and for the fans their music was a refuge from the
overhyped hit driven music with mindless lyrics that dominated the radio
waves and MTV.
Originally formed in Los Angeles in 1979
by bassist John Crawford and keyboard player David Diamond, vocalist Terri
Nunn joined the group after their original lead vocalist quit. It didn’t
take long for the group to make their presence known on the LA music scene
with the seductive sexual innuendo and catchy synth-pop sound. In 1982
the group entered the studio with drummer Rod Learned and guitarists Chris
Ruiz-Velasco and Rick Olsen to record the EP, “Pleasure Victim” which spawned
the national hit single, “Sex (I'm A... )”. With plenty of sexual over
tones from the suggestive title and nude photo of Terri Nunn on the EP’s
inner sleeve the EP caught the attention of the public and quickly went
gold. By the time the entered the studio to record their full-length debut,
keyboard player Matt Reid, and drummer Rob Brill had joined their ranks.
The resulting album, “Love Life” was an instant hit when it was released
in 1984, the single “No More Words” got plenty of airplay and helped give
the band a second gold record to add to their collection.
Berlin struck a chord with fans, sonically
they fit in nicely with the New Wave crowd that all but owned radio and
MTV at that point but they also stuck out with their pensive lyrics and
the seductive vocals of Terri Nunn.
Some personnel shake-ups occurred in 1986
and the band was scaled down to a trio that included Crawford, Nunn, and
Brill. For their sophomore album, “Count Three and Pray,” they recruited
legendary producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd “The Wall” & KISS “Destroyer”)
and the disc even included a guest appearance from the most unlikely of
musicians, Ted Nugent. Unfortunately, the music on “Count Three and Pray”
was too big of a departure for Berlin’s core fan base and sales failed
to reach the level of their debut album.
By 1987, Berlin was having internal problems
and lead vocalist Terri Nunn decided to leave the group to try her luck
as a solo artist. Crawford and Brill moved on to their next project, “The
Big F” with guitarist Mark Christian. The Big F took a markedly different
musical direction from the New Wave of Berlin, the trio’s hard rockin sound
was most often compared to The Cult. Despite signing to a major label,
Elektra records, the music never really caught on. Their self-titled debut
was greeted with mixed reviews from critics and the fan base never really
appeared. Their second album, “Is” released in 1993, suffered a similar
Terri Nunn’s stab at a solo career failed
as well, shortly after her solo debut, “Moment of Truth,” was released
in 1992 she decided to take a break from the music business. In 1998 Terri
decided to resurrect Berlin and in 2000 recorded the critically acclaimed
live album, “Berlin Live: Sacred and Profane.” The live tracks captured
the magic of Berlin’s music and surprisingly in step with modern music,
not a retro New Wave throwback to the 80’s. This was further demonstrated
with the three new studio tracks that were included on the album. The new
tracks were engineered by Guns N’ Roses’ Gilby Clarke and gave us a glimpse
of the 21st century Berlin. The seeds were sown for the full force
return of Berlin that we are now witnessing with the release of “Voyeur”.
After a decade and a half without a full-length
release of new material, Berlin is alive and well with the same spirit,
though tempered with the wisdom and insight that came from their long absence.
Their new CD, "Voyeur," is much more personal in tone than past albums.
Terri Nunn is credited with writing the lyrics of all but one song and
listening to it feels like reading this chapter of her point in her life.
"Voyeur" is a little less wild than their past work and some of the songs,
like "Blink of an Eye," are more geared as dance club tunes while others
are more steady and melodious. But this CD is not without edge with
songs like "Drug" and "Stranger on the Bus" which blurs fantasy and rape.
The lyrics in "Voyeur" is much more introspective
and the music remains true to their roots and translates well to the musical
tastes of 2002. I've listened to "Voyeur" too many times to count
and find myself skipping over only one song (I usually skip over a handful
of songs from most CDs). It is now definitely a favorite in my collection.
The first track, "Blink of an Eye" is a
fun dance song and interestingly the only song not written by Nunn.
But is serves as an energetic opener to this great CD. The next track,
"Shiny," is another pleasant dance song. It then moves on to a more
introspective, "Lost My Mind," which laments the loss of a relationship
and reintroduces the fantastic turns in Nunn's vocal range. Next,
the bittersweet "World is Waiting," speaks of the unnecessary choice of
loneliness and is softly reminiscent of their classic, "Matter Of Time."
The pace again picks up with "Drug." Anyone whose been strung out
on a relationship like a drug can relate this song and listen to it over
and over to get their fix. The next song, "Sacred And Profane," happens
to be the only track I usually skip over. Co-written by Billy Corgan,
tt describes Nunn's lust and fascination with Michael Hutchence when she
first heard him in concert. Though I didn't care too much for this
one, it does really capture the image of a woman in a crowd whose entranced
by the artist on the stage and oblivious to everything else around her.
Moving on, we have, "All I Ever Need," which indicts the absurdity of materialism
with a nice melody. "With A Touch" is yet another entrancing dance
song that helps keep the roots of Berlin firmly in the forefront.
Following this is "To A King," which is
probably the best song of the collection. It has a haunting sound
and is in the voice of a woman in love with a man who is in a relationship
with a bitch that contemptuously dismisses him. The listener is then
challenged with a tale about attraction and rape in "Stranger on the Bus."
The lyrics will stick with you.
"Voyeur" then closes with "Stronger Than
Steel" and describes Nunn's standing by her mother who was suffering from
cancer. But hold on, that's not all. Wait through a minute
of silence and your treated to a live version of "Pleasure Victim."
"Voyeur" will not disappoint if you don't
try to compare it with classics such as "Metro" and "Masquerade."
Nunn's voice is inviting and sexy as ever and the range of songs and lyrics
in this collection seem to be more layered in thought and emotion than
earlier albums. I'd give it a solid A.
you want more?
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