A Flock Of Seagulls: Ascension – album review
A Flock Of Seagulls – Ascension (August Day Recordings)
CD / DL
6 July 2018
Iconic New-Wave reform for their new album. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews.
A Flock of Seagulls were a slightly odd thing. One of the most iconic groups from the 80s they in reality had little commercial success in their native UK. Unbelievably, the song for which they are remembered most, I Ran, failed to make the Top 40 on these shores despite being released three times. Instead it became a huge success in America where it entered the Top 10 in the Billboard, Mainstream Rock and Dance charts helped no doubt with a promotional video which was also picked up by the newly emerging MTV. The track also gave the band a number one single in Australia.
The four members who initially recorded are back for Ascension, an album of re-interpreted A Flock Of Seagulls tracks with backing from the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. As you’d expect, there is quite a furore about the reunion of the group that was torn apart by family feuds and nervous breakdowns and rightly so as, despite their indifferent commercial success they did write some great and memorable material.
Boasting that the ‘original members appear together on record for the first time in thirty years’ may be a well-worded claim. There is no mention that the tracks have been re-recorded or that the band have reformed in the studio, instead it does sound as though the original tracks have been ‘merged’ with orchestral arrangements from the Prague Philharmonic. Ascension however is a good solid album containing their biggest hits and a few older album tracks to boot.
The new track mentioned in the PR is in fact an orchestral instrumental with the same title as the album. DNA, Modern Love Is Automatic and Man Made originally appeared on the eponymously titled debut album and Electrics from the 1983 follow up, Listen which also contained Wishing (the bands biggest UK hit peaking at number 10) and Transfer Affection, both of which appear.
I Ran (So Far Away) remains a fine song to this day perhaps endorsed by its appearance on several platforms over the years including video games Grand Theft Auto and Guitar Hero and Cartoon Networks animated Regular Show. The tale of alien abduction and falling in love took the USA by storm with its incredibly addictive hook and chorus, the two minute intro by the Prague Philharmonic adds an air of grandiose to the proceedings and makes the song a dramatic spectacle. As an opener to the album, it really couldn’t be much better – fans of the song beware of approaching goose pimples racing up your arms!
Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You) personifies the textbook pop song. It had it all – dramatic intro, crashing percussion, infectious verses and a strapline that sat just perfectly in the make-up of the song. The orchestra adds drama to the proceedings with huge swathes of strings spanning the poppy instrumentation and on Space Age Love Song (a criminally underrated single) maybe the full class of the track is finally exposed.
Their haircuts may have preceded them but make no mistake, in their short stay in the public eye A Flock Of Seagulls produced some fine songs and for a little while, we were falling in love with a new Fab Four.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop and you can follow him on Twitter as @hiapop, and on Facebook here.