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4.3 out of 5 stars34
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 22 September 2006
Beauty Stab is a fascinating album for pop music history buffs. The follow up to the slick mega seller, The Lexicon of Love, Beauty Stab was a raw energetic piece of work. It was also a commercial suicide, not even cracking the top 10 in the UK where ABC were huge; the second single from the album, the soothing S.O.S. barely made the top 40. ABC also insisted upon its release not providing any interviews, letting the album speak for itself. Once they finally allowed the press access to them (promoting said S.O.S.), the main discussion was the commercial (and what the English press mostly considered artistic) failure of Beauty Stab.

ABC went on regaining commercial success with sounds in the vein of The Lexicon of Love with an added soul and campy disco flavour. It is, however, interesting that Beauty Stab is now being re-mastered for a second time, showing that some demand seems still to exist for the album (the range in the reviews indicates that it is still being debated how good Beauty Stab really is).

Instead of writing about the music in details, I concentrate on the quality of this newest Neutron Re-release. The previous re-release dates from 1997. The re-mastering of that album was decent and included an extra track, the instrumental Vertigo. The sleeve had a few short essays about the album, period. This Neutron release has improved the sound from the initial re-mastering somewhat. The high tones are clearer. The difference is definitely audible but not dramatic, hence those who own the original re-release in most cases should not upgrade to this version on a sound basis alone. The packaging has been improved, with lyrics added this time around, some of which are timeless - She's vegetarian except when it comes to sex. There are also an additional two tracks from the initial re-release. One is an unedited version of That Was Then but This Is Now, which includes a minute or two of wailing guitars during the end of the song. The other song is a somewhat lame but funny ABC on 45 version of songs from the album called Selections from Beauty Stab, basically sections of songs taped together. I believe this was included on a plastic free single for NME readers.

The music is from my standpoint for the most parts fantastic, although a few songs being below par. The instrumental title track became known as the theme song for the Montreaux music festival which was popular during the mid 80s (few actually knew it was ABC performing that rocking theme song). Unzip and If I Ever Thought You'd Be Lonely are other examples of songs that have aged very well.

For those interested in Beauty Stab, I recommend this version. I also believe time has proved it also being a very good album in its own rights.
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on 4 June 2009
I've just listened to this album again for the first time in probably 20 years, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I bought it on vinyl first time around and played it an awful lot back then, then it disappeared up into the loft with the rest of my vinyl in the early 90s when I got married.

Although "Lexicon of Love" will probably always be regarded as ABC's strongest album and did contain some classic tracks, I think this one is actually better, I just think the departure from the usual formula was a bit much to take for many "Lexicon" fans. It's darker, deeper and dare I say more than a little Roxy Music-esque in places (I was bought up listening to Roxy Music as they evolved) which in this case is no bad thing.

For me there isn't a weak track, rather that some stand out more than others - I would say for me, That Was Then This Is Now, Love's A Dangerous Language, Bite the Hand and United Kingdom are the pick of the bunch. The instrumental title track isn't bad either although it sounds in places like the intro to a programme about fast cars - maybe it has been used for something and I've forgotten???

The lyrics soon came back and I had a great sing along ("Unzip! Unzip! Unzip!")

Well worth another listen. If I could amend my review, I'd give it 5 stars.
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on 12 August 2007
Hmm. . . that difficult second album.

What do you do when your first album turns you into international superstars, sends you on a global tour, ropes in Julien Temple to make a film based on said album and places you at the forefront of the new wave of British pop? Err, go back to the studio, swap the gold lame suit for a leather jacket, chuck a bit of politics into the lyrics and rock out. A critical backlash awaited. . .

While an eager public anticipated "Lexicon 2", Fry and colleagues were preparing its antithesis; a brash, raw album suffused with lyrics about the state of the UK under Thatcher and the shady ways of the advertising industry ("I sold the Eskimo snow, Built the skyline outta playdo, Persuading you that monochrome is dayglo"). Not a mention of a Poison Arrow anywhere. . .

Thing is, this is a great, great album. Compared to the sprawling cds of today, it's an economical 40 minutes, contains some solid pop melodies, a REALLY good rhythm section and perhaps three or four of ABCs finest moments.

That Was Then But This is Now is all that was needed to tell fans of Lexicon that more of the same was not going to happen ("Why make the past your sacred cow"). By the time of "Power of Persuation's" howling guitars, many would have been reaching for the off switch. More fool them - Beautystab came next - recognisable as the theme from the Montreux Pop Festival and 3 minutes of top jamming!

Some sauciness with "Unzip" ("She's vegetarian except when it comes to sex") and the dreamy SOS (a shockingly poor chart placing of 39 on its release as a single) leads to the finale and Fry's state of the nation address with "United Kingdom".

I was a little too young at the time to judge the critical lashing that this received upon its release, only catching up a couple of years later as it soothed my O-Level revision pains. But it has stayed with me for over 20 years, getting a play every few months.

This rerelease polishes the sound, adds a couple of curios in the extra tracks and has some decent liner notes (the original release being a just a picture of the band looking "rawk" in the studio.) I did spot what I think is a mastering error on Bite the Hand where the pitch of some strings gets bent - you should be able to pick it up on the sample Amazon link to (around 14 seconds in).

Other than that, after Lexicon, this probably ties for second best ABC album with "Millionaire", which itself completely turned things on its head by embracing the latest in studio technology with its heavy use of Fairlights and DMX, oh and reinventing themselves as cartoon characters. . .
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on 17 July 2006
At the time this lp was criminally ignored by the record buying public. It combines great lyrics with complex and innovative arragements, and was obviously a bit too difficult for many listeners. As for music critics, they'd already decided that abc were yesterday's news(wrongly) and were unprepared to give this lp a fair review.
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on 28 June 2002
I originally picked up a CD of this in 1989 in Germany, (which it has to be said had a better booklet than this re-released version incl. lyrics etc.) - previously it was always one of my favourite albums on vinyl.
At the time, every reviewer hated this album - only because it was such a radical departure from "Lexicon of Love" - but it's ABC's finest work. A SERIOUSLY tight rhythm section (incl. Andy Newmark from Roxy Music on drums) and chunky guitars underpin superb songs (the title track is relatively well-known as the theme music from the "Montreux Rock Festival" programmes back in the '80's) and the (near) medley of Hey Citizen! & King Money followed by Bite the Hand and Unzip is just perfection.
If you like great songs that stand up to repeated listening, along with a touch of uniqueness - you could do a lot worse than have this CD in your collection.
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 18 February 2006
The whole new pop deal when ditch bound a year or so after the heights of 'The Lexicon of Love', 'Pelican West', 'New Gold Dream' & 'Sulk' - music became dominated by the Duran/Spandau axis and things like FGTH was newer pop. ABC had been feted with the classic 'Lexicon', but in the process of touring it had lost drummer Dave Palmer (to Yellow Magic Orchestra then The The). Trevor Horn & Anne Dudley went onto other climes & the notion that they were the driving force behind 'Lexicon' became accepted and people believed that ABC's debut was as good as they got.
Which is a dis-service for the three albums that immediatly followed it - 'Beauty Stab' (1983), 'How to Be a Zillionaire' (1984) & 'Alphabet City' (1987) - which all have great moments worthy of 'Lexicon' (only final LP 'Up' seemed a bit lightweight). 'Beauty Stab' found ABC rocking out ( a degree) and like Depeche Mode circa 'Construction Time Again' (also 1983) writing work with a political theme ('King Money', 'Hey Citizen!', 'United Kingdom'). Truth be told, this LP is better than the last two Gang of Four albums - where they failed to fuse politics and pop (though I always have time for 'I Love a Man in Uniform'). A listen to the "ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh" vocal refrain at the end of single 'That Was Then But This is Now' demonstrates where Damon Albarn got the "ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh" vocal refrain for 'Girls & Boys' (though Albarn's Gorillaz owe even more to the next LP 'Zillionaire'). Not an album that gets feted much, though the lead singer of Dandy Warhols Courtney Courtney Taylor (or whatever) once big upped it as a prime Brit influence (alongside Slowdive & Ride!!!).
This definitive reissue comes with a few bonus tracks which at this budget price warrants investigation - though 'Lexicon' & 'How to Be...' come above this in the scheme of things ABC. The notion that this album has no decent pop songs is a shower of...when you note 'That Was Then...' or fellow single 'S.O.S.' An under-valued album for sure, though many have found it slightly over-estimated by the knowing few. Which side aren't you on?
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I have had this album of Sheffield supremo Martin Fry and company on cassette for many years, and have just listened to it for the first time for a long while, whilst in a traffic jam.I fogot how good it was. Beauty Stab contains a canon of well produced songs that combine guitar rock and classical arrangements, the guitars a welcome addtion to the classical of Lexicon of Love, which is a superb album too. The songs are so catchy they demand to be listened to twice in row at least, my favourites being 'Unzip' (Would have been a chart hit if the lyrics were not so explicit!), 'Beauty Stab' (Great insrumental), and 'S.O.S' (Classic pop).
Recommended for all New Romantic wannabes.
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on 2 October 2010
Although this album follows the massive seller & lushly produced 'Lexicon of Love', I've always thought this sounded more like an edgier predecessor, like 'Revolver' is to 'Sgt Pepper' with shorter but highly varied tracks, several with a surprising amount of guitar. Both albums are good but on this ABC took the bold step NOT to create a similar sounding follow up, perhaps to their commercial cost. The incongruous sleeve perhaps didn't help. It may be a challenging listen for some but deserves investigation as an album in it's own right. If you want a 'Lexicon of Love' part 2, try 'Alphabet City'.
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on 24 October 2011
In it's own right, this is a great album that is crying out to be remastered. Don't miss out. From the opening rips of That was then to SOS, these songs are well-crafted. United Kingdom is a final track that also grows upon you. ABC were always ahead of the curve so there albums often sound contemporary and fresh today. Many tracks here are fan favourites so feature in Martin's stage set right up to today
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on 13 September 2010
If you're familiar with other ABC material then this could be a difficult listen at first. Stick with it and you'll find there's much to enjoy.
It would have been too far ahead of the game to be a commercial success when originally released. However, today it's a great listen and has clearly stood the test of time.
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