Recently , the latest in a long sad line of MP3 players i have owned went on the blink and so i was forced to go back to my old cassette walkman. This meant scouring the boxes under the bed for cassettes to play on it. Grabbing a handful at random i have had the pleasure of listening to albums i haven't heard in years. Foremost amongst these is the debut album from The Dream Academy.
Released in 1985 the album is multi-faceted sumptuous pop experience utilising for that time exotic instrumentation- strings , woodwind, heavy percussion and synthesisers but most importantly it contains ten excellent songs. The band comprised of singer guitarist and main song writer Nick Laird-Clowes, keyboard player and song writing contributor Gilbert Gabriel and multi-instrumentalist ( Though she mainly played the oboe) Kate St John . The album was produced by Dave Gilmour Laird- Clowes and Alan Tarney.
The song everyone remembers off the album is the single "Life In A Northern Town" with it's video shot in Hebden Bridge in the Calder Valley. Written as a tribute to Nick Drake(Whose critical renaissance had started around this time) the song is memorable for it's lilting verse and percussion heavy and euphoric chorus. It is by no means though the best song on the album. "Love Parade" , the follow up single is a glorious pop confection that mysteriously bombed in the U.K. charts. "This World" is a swirling vertiginous orch-pop epic about Laird-Clowes friends drug addiction while "Bound To Be" sounds typically eighties with its burbling bass lines but the audacious jabbing strings give it real dramatic tension." Johnny (New Light)" tender strummed chords give way to a galloping chorus ."In Places On The Run" is a dreamy almost narcoleptic ballad haunted by Kate St Johns plaintive oboe. Incidentally, her oboe playing is one of the main reasons this is such a great consistent record , something she also achieved on Julian Copes "Fried" album.
In-between there is the tense but symphonic "The Edge Of Forever", the more ductile eighties tones of "Moving On" complete with meandering saxophone, the stocky orchestral strains of "The Party" and the closing acoustic ballad "One Dream", all showcasing consummate melodies and verdant arrangements. Laird-Clowes is a decent vocalist veering away from bombast and unnecessary affectation and Kate St Johns backing vocals are just terrific.
The band went on to make one more album "Remembrance Days" in 1987 before splitting but in truth that album was a tad under whelming .Laird -Clowes has gone on to record as Trashmonk. Dream Academy is one of my favourite pop albums of the eighties. It has aged better than a great deal of eighties music , though it must be said the stuff that hasn't dated well still has a glossy charm as well . This is cultured expansive pop music , commercial sounding but with a singular vision all its own . Yes it is possible to make music like that though it,s hard to envisage it nowadays .......unless I've been dreaming.