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Serving to remind us that Dusseldorf could be famous for something other than Kraftwerk
, Outside World
is an accurately compact retrospective of German synth collective Propaganda's all-too-brief flirtation with popularity in the mid-1980s (and that's hardly surprising, given their label's obsession with tugging on the udders of Frankie Goes to Hollywood
for all they were worth).
At a time when English musical ears were suspicious of post-Abba foreign accents--was "99 Red Balloons" really all our European neighbours could contribute to the EEC pop mountain?--and yet strangely in awe of all things efficiently cold and Teutonic when it came to synthesisers (the Mobiles, Ultravox, New Order) Propaganda were not found wanting. In Claudia Brucken, they had the archetypical blonde German ice maiden who sang with all the sang-froid of a devil-worshipping abattoir supervisor while their slickly produced (man of the moment Trevor Horn, of course) and sinuous synth-pop reached its classically melodic apex on the timeless "Duel" (a UK Number 21 in 1985) and its grievous, piston-rhythmed punk sibling "Jewel". As with Frankie Goes to Hollywood, you'd need a box set to collate the manifold vinyl remixes issued by designer label ZTT at the time, but Outside World cuts to the chase and tells the Propaganda novice all he/she needs to know in a delightfully silvery disc-shaped package. --Kevin Maidment