Monday, December 07, 2009

"The Golden Age of Wireless"

I've already mentioned -- too many times, probably --my great love of Thomas Dolby's debut album "The Golden Age of Wireless." Its recent remastering has given me a new outlook on why I love it so much, and why it "works" so well. I can finally view it as a critical adult instead of a mystified child.

I still love it. In fact, I love it even more.

I started writing a huge critique of the album, but I realized only a serious fan would be even remotely interested in my opinions. Instead I'll just mention the beautiful WARMTH of the sound -- a rare feat for synthpop, especially in 1982 -- and my favourite "production" touches throughout: the breathy "ahhh" that precedes every chorus in "Weightless," the lonely bass-guitar "ping" spaced throughout "Airwaves," the occasional subtle swing of a bonus snare hit that sneaks into the otherwise rigid "Windpower."

Everybody should own "The Golden Age of Wireless."

4 comments:

Eli McIlveen said...

Remastered? Oh hell yes.

[an hour later]

Wow.

The album sounds so much more whole like this, in its original order, with long-lost tracks restored and long-severed segues intact, and the "wireless" theme suddenly makes ten times more sense. Even the synth version of "Radio Silence", which I'd always thought a little tinkly and lightweight compared to the "guitar" version, sounds better in this light. (And it's nice to have a crisp, clean, proper version of the guitar version at last, not my treble-deprived vinyl transfer.) Wonderful.

Have you read that old Keyboard interview with Dolby that came out around the time?

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I totally agree: this track order -- which I've never heard before -- is the only one that makes sense! "She Blinded Me With Science" was too "dancefloor," "Urges" and "Leipzig" were too primitive, and "One of Our Submarines" too epic when on the same album as "Cloudburst." All wonderful songs, sure, but not coherent.

And I haven't heard that version of "Radio Silence" in ages, and it's so much richer than I remember. "Try to think of nothing..."

Great remastering job. The CD always sounded thin. Now it has that cinematic quality that I remember it having on vinyl. Just a superb job!

Hearing the demos is interesting too, because I've often wondered how these songs came about...it's obvious that Dolby could write a really great song, but I think he needed a good producer to keep his eccentricities in line. Case in point: the newly-remastered "Flat Earth," which I can only think of as mediocre...the genius moments are offset by the "MUUUULUUUUU!" moments.

Do you have a link to the Keyboard interview? I'm particularly trying to remember what the "Wave Computer" was. I know I found an article about it online a long time ago -- some huge, flaky analog monster that he didn't dare take on tour -- but I don't remember the actual brand.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Aha, the "Wave Computer" was a PPG 340/380, and not analog after all. On "Wireless" he also used a Micromoog and a Jupiter-4.

http://emusician.com/em_spotlight/dolby_spotlight_oct07/

Eli McIlveen said...

It doesn't seem to have been posted anywhere online... I'll dig around for it.