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Monday, March 20, 2023

Songs of '83: "Always Something There to Remind Me"

It wasn't until I grew older, and I came to really appreciate the complex beauty of Burt Bacharch's smooth orchestral pop sounds, that I realized what an audacious, and even vaguely unsettling, accomplishment Naked Eyes's "Always Something There to Remind Me"--their first single, which debuted on the Billboard charts 40 years ago this week--truly was. They took a shimmering, sad, yet hopeful song in the classic broken-hearted-girl mode (such as Dionne Warwick or Sandie Shaw performed it) and in their synth-laden hands it suddenly becomes a slick, dark, misogynistic number, alternating between bombastic bitterness over the girl who got away, and an almost sleazy, stalkerish undercurrent--the video practically identifies with the paparazzi culture of the era: how dare the girl escape my view, when I can't stop thinking about her! This take may not have been characteristic of the Second British Invasion overall, but it wasn't unique either (as we'll see when the Police arrive to take over nearly all of American pop radio later this year).

None of this is to run down the Naked Eyes guys. Pete Byrne and the late Rob Fisher were talented dudes at the University of Bath in the late 1970s who enjoyed the club sounds, played in a band with the musicians who later formed Tears for Fears (who first album was also released 40 years ago, but didn't get anything onto American pop radio for a couple more years), discovered the wonders of the Fairlight CMI, and cooked up some fine tunes, giving us suburban Americans another look at the mating rituals of these cosmopolitan Brits across the ocean. But hey, decades on, you got to call them as you hear them.


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