Of all the talented and adventurous bands that emerged in the second Liverpool rock explosion, A Flock of Seagulls was the first to snag a gold record in the US. Led by singer-keyboardist-guitarist Mike Score (he of the ludicrous hairdo) and including his brother Ali on drums, the quartet got its first break came when Bill Nelson produced a single for them and released it on his Cocteau label.
The five-song Telecommunication EP has a catchy tune or two, but it wasn’t until AFOS entered the studio to make A Flock of Seagulls with producer Mike Howlett that they developed a style of their own. Relying on guitarist Paul Reynolds’ U2-influenced textural wash, brisk (and danceable) tempos, distended strains of synthesizer and some fancy studio maneuvers, the band was able to hide its inadequacies (dumb lyrics and limited conceptual range) within catchy and stylish (for the time) techno-rock that proved to have broad commercial appeal. The album that contains the band’s signature song, “I Ran,” also contains “You Can Run” (“but you can’t hide”).
Attempting to follow that hugely successful release, AFOS recorded Listen with Howlett (except for one cut) and hit some real highs. Retreating from gimmicky sci-fi themes (notwithstanding the circuit-board cover), they found an affecting path in the lushly pretty, languid “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” and the understated “Nightmares,” but fouled out on several boring tracks and “What Am I Supposed to Do,” which starts well but winds up repeating the title endlessly. Score does the same thing on “(It’s Not Me) Talking,” but a propulsive synth-dance-beat and some neat sonic maneuvers keep it exciting.
Made without Howlett, The Story of a Young Heart is decidedly inferior. The bland romantic ballads on the first side lack character, have tedious vocals and point up the group’s finite songwriting skill. “The More You Live, The More You Love” comes closest to creative merit but is plodding and forgettable. The rockier songs on the flipside are marginally better, but can’t carry the record alone. A vain attempt at artistic maturity and sophistication, the real story here is one of ambition at odds with ability.
Reynolds left, and AFOS made their next record as a trio (augmented by half a dozen different guitarists), with Mike Score in charge of production. Although somewhat short on personality, the almost modestly appointed Dream Come True is reasonably listenable, a collection of simpleminded romantic numbers led by “Heartbeat Like a Drum.”
The ten-song compilation leans heavily on the first (“Telecommunication,” “Space Age Love Song,” the Top 10 “I Ran”) and second (“Wishing,” “Nightmares,” “(It’s Not Me) Talking”) albums, with nothing later than 1985’s “Who’s That Girl (She’s Got It).” The CD adds a nine-minute remix of “Wishing” and the third LP’s title track.
In 1989, a new version of AFOS — with only Mike Score remaining from the original band — launched a vain comeback try, touring the US in support of a hopeless new single, “Magic.”