Viewed at the start by some as adventurous and trendsetting, the ludicrous garb and chic disco of London’s Spandau Ballet were both dubious new wave developments, but spawned much replication. Head poseur Tony Hadley and his four cohorts (including songwriting guitarist Gary Kemp) found success with a heavily rhythmic brand of distant funk-rock dolled up with synthesizers and stentorian singing. Produced by Richard James Burgess, Journeys to Glory contains one great dance hit (actually, one tightly compressed riff: “To Cut a Long Story Short,” their first single) and a batch of variations thereon. With the addition of horns and other reformulated moves, Diamond — issued in the UK as a set of four 12-inch singles as well as a regular single album — also produced a few more estimable British chart smashes (“Chant No. 1,” “Paint Me Down”). Possessing only limited talent themselves, Spandau opened the floodgates to a wave of superior electro-dance bands who had little trouble creatively eclipsing them.
Spandau then abandoned synthesizers and high-tension funk for schmaltzy pop with soul pretensions. Working with the production team of Tony Swain and Steve Jolley, the fivesome cut True and Parade, the first yielding several attractive blends of energy, melody, warmth and stylishness (“Communication,” “Lifeline”) as well as some of the sappiest MOR ever (“True,” which became a global hit). Generally less wimped-out, Parade nonetheless continues the bland chart fare, with the stylistic divergence best represented by “Revenge for Love” (good) and “Only When You Leave” (egregiously mellow).
During legal tumult between Spandau and Chrysalis, the label issued a collection of the band’s singles, followed by a UK-only compilation of extended remixes.
The wretched Through the Barricades dumps the Perry Como snooze for an overheated American album-rock sound that echoes Eric Carmen, REO Speedwagon (or is it Styx?) and Billy Joel. Gary Langan’s co-production (with the group) has all the earmarks of a desperate last-ditch grab at reclaiming US airplay. Kemp’s songs are worthless; the echo on Hadley’s melodramatic warbling (backed in maximally clichéd fashion by a female trio) only makes the whole affair more laughable.
With the cinematically inclined Kemp brothers getting good notices for their work in The Krays, Spandau’s days may be numbered. But the group (no longer meriting American release — is that any way to treat a Top 5 act six years later?) hasn’t given up yet. A characterless nothing whose blandly antiseptic soul, rock and funk stylings sound like an amalgam of VH-1’s worst mushmongers, Heart Like a Sky‘s main entertainment value lies in the clumsy syntax of Kemp’s greeting-card sentiments. (At random: “Two young babes in a foreign land / Draw no milk from the dusty sand / Close their eyes from the night so cold / Feel the love in their mothers [sic] hold.”) Say goodnight, boys.