on 27 October 2006
For you who loved the first Propaganda Album (A Secret Wish) and are expecting something along the same lines, you might be disappointed. The two albums are completely different, although there are hints of the past in some of the tracks. Don't forget that there are a few years between these albums and tastes evolve and change and Michael Mertens seems to have moved foreward to a more sophisticated and perhaps a somewhat sweeter genre. This is a great album with good tracks and the lovely voice of Betsi Miller. She outsings former singer Claudia Brucken with ease, although Claudia's voice DID, I must confess, fit-in with the sound of the first album.
on 3 January 2015
A secret wish has me extolling the virtues of this post Trevor Horn Propaganda incarnation over its more art noveau, even pretentious at times apparent ground breaking debut where Claudia Brucken's just developing vocals were the album's main puller alongside the whooshing pinnacle of synths and high production levels that admittedly took the place of strong songwriting. That album was more an exercise in studied cleverness and flamboyant grandiose that left few songs to enjoy, never mind strike a commercial bull's eye, but at least they had the sense to release the three best offerings it had for singles-while each was very much itself and like nothing else, they had enough lyrical punch and vocals to drive forward, while a fourth single could have been the wry 'Sorry For Laughing'-a 12" was created for it, but then typical record label shafting left the group in tatters, and they haven't worked as a unit on anything new since, so when "1234" came along, in 1990 a new vocalist was added, American Betsi Miller whose lush and honeyed tones expressed deeply a new heart the group had icily refused to show, or was unable to first time around, and certainly the Howard Jones written 'Heaven Give Me Words' (the first single and a Top 40 hit despite very little promo work at the time), dreamy yet potent dramatic sweep of 'Only One Word' (with Dave Gilmour on guitar), proficient 'How Much Love', tranquilising 'Wound In My Heart' and cinematic 'Vicious Circle' threaten a top album for 1990, and a promise of what could be built on-the first four titles here were all picked as singles even more surprisingly and pleasingly-seems to project far, until you realise the shortcomings of what scuppered the first album from 1985 remains.
And that big deal is laziness. Despite one more melodious club offering-'Your Wildlife' that the noxious Madonna would kill for-and sung scarily in the way that creature would love to try for, you soon realise this is not a full album-with just 7 tracks it is even more statistically insulting than "A Secret Wish", though there are a least a few more words on here. Much of 'Wildlife' is given over to instrumentation and a repeated rap refrain, whilst 'Ministry Of Fear' is a completely wasted effort-it may as well be an instrumental, with barely a few spoken words by other original girl member Susanne Freytag and the thing bangs on unforgiveably to almost 8 mins, recalling the same kind of thing the opener did for the '85 album. Then a further minute and a half are wasted on a pointless musical reprise of THIS album's first track, whilst an actual lengthy instrumental ends the album. Even worse, I wasted money on the CD single of 'Only One Word', thinking the 'Empty Spaces' b-side HAD to be the song they didn't bother completing this album with-and of course what I feared came true-just another overlong piece of vocal-free musing.
Claudia Brucken has since done a solo album in 1991 to generally outdo both these albums-it helps there are actual songs on there-10 in all, plus 2 b-sides, none of them being instrumentals as a woman is heading up the vehicle, and just fine by me. A few of the tracks may be a bit obtuse to always engage fully with, but overall she's delivered better (plus her projects with other people, like Thomas Leer and OMD's Paul) than the rest of the group, cos she bothers to write actual lyrics rather than pee about reworking the few tunes the group she once fronted ever had. How many expansions of 'A Secret Wish' need we to have now, especially as there's never anything new on the package. Note to Claudia fans-get her new album "Where Else" out now, and check out her "Instead" album and "Item" CD single with partner OMD's Paul Humphreys from the noughties. Even better than a group that promised so much in 1985, then again in 1990, and both times utterly dropped it. A victim of their own inability to grow beyond a concept, and a big pity.
Worst thing is-what a waste of Betsi Miller! A voice that wonderful should have covered this album with phrases and sentences written for that beautifully expressive and vulnerable voice to circumscribe the full running time with. Anyone can programme an unending disco beat dirge to run on wordlessly, it's composing meaningful words for it that is Doerper and Meten's huge failing. All the more damaging as Betsi seems to have utterly disappeared from music since this album dropped, I can find no information on her further moves at all. Can anyone else? And her contribution to this album makes it more important than it actually is-maybe with another song or two and less poncing about with the switches and dials of sample city it would deserve the four star rating it sits on-but that extra star is all for Besti's lovely presence-of what there is of it. Get the album for her alone.
"1-2-3-4"-about all the meaningful songs it has to offer that matter, and barely one more.
on 20 April 2010
As somebody who enjoyed every track of the two albums released by the original Propaganda incarnation, I always resisted buying this album because I felt it could not stand up to comparison due to so many members having left. How wrong was I! The quality of the songs is very high and the traditional Propaganda tone can be felt in virtually every track. There is a softer feel, but it does not detract in any way. If you like the original albums - you will like this.
on 19 February 2005
If you want to listen to the real essence of the music that Propaganda released, then you should listen to "A Secret Wish" and "Outside World", which demonstrates a very European and idiosyncratic sound. 1234 sounds much more American and more generic.
Having said that, the music is good and, after a few listens, it is really catchy and increasingly pleasing to the ear. It is also very well produced. Instrumentally and vocally, there is nothing wrong with it and I can understand what the other reviewers have gone overboard and written such nice things about it.
However, it could have been produced by a whole bunch of artists and groups, which is exactly my point about the band. Only one member of the original band remained when this was produced - Michael Mertens. Susanne Freytag, Claudia Brucken and Ralf Doerper had all left and been replace by others - American vocalist Betsi Miller and ex-Simple Minds players Derek Forbes (bass) and Brian McGee (drums). Nevertheless, tracks such as "Heaven Give Me Words," "Only One Word" and "Wound in My Heart" are examples of Propaganda doing what it did well, well put-together synth-pop.
In conclusion, if you want to have one Propaganda album in your collection - and I strongly suggest they are so good that everyone should do so - then this isn't the one to choose; get one of the two I've mentioned, both of which are masterpieces.
The previous version of this review was entitled "Good, but not a patch on previous albums."
Above is my original review, so you know what I said before. However, I am happy to tell you that I have become increasingly smitten with the album, the more I play it (and I have played it a lot). In some respects, I stand by what is written above, but I just find the tracks so irresistibly catchy that I can't help but love it. I never thought there was a bad track, but I now accept that no band stays the same and need to move on when original members leave. Call it an awakening of my mind - an acceptance that I should take the album on its merits and not just hark back to the original band (and, anyway, I have learned that both Mr Forbes and Mr McGee were part of Propaganda's touring band in 1985).
In doing that, I have come to realise that the album is excellent and all the tracks are outstanding. It doesn't matter who the band members are because, musically, it sounds great and Betsi Miller has a great voice and there are some interesting guests on the album - William Orbit doing some post production on "Heaven Give Me Words" and Howard Jones is here on backing vocals. Pink Floyd's David Gilmour playing excellent guitar on "Only One Word", along with Pilot's bassist David Paton, Saxophonist Mel Collins on the closing track "La Carne, La Morte a Il Diavolo". Even original member Susanna Freytag guests with some spoken vox on "Vicious Circle" and "Ministry Of Fear." Finally, the album was produced by Ian Stanley and Chris Hughes, who were the production team behind some of Tears for Fears albums.
So, sorry if this sounds a bit pompous, but I happily offer up a reconsidered review and have added this extra bit.
on 8 December 1999
What can be said about this album apart from the fact that it is the only modern album that is constantly turning in my CD player. Every track is a classic. The favourite being "Heaven Give Me Words". This song should have got further in the charts than it did - still it was around the time when the charts were being destroyed by "rave".
Treat yourself - go on - it's only £7.99. That's less than 4 pints and three bags of peanuts!
on 13 October 2011
A midnight blue satin glove rests on a Hugo Boss leg in a Carrera 4s pulling into GVA, as Your Wildlife fades from the Clarion.
This is a Propaganda album. And leaving that immediately to one side, 1,2,3,4 is a sumptuous collection of beautifully crafted synth-pop songs from a time when Miami Vice had run its course, the Ur-Quattro was becoming an anachronism, and Britpop playgroups were politely waiting to squat into the void left by its inevitable quadrophenic epiphany, as adulthood, responsibility, and recession finally consigned a decade of unashamed, technology-fuelled, indulgence to history.
This is a polished, sophisticated and intricate work of classy, evocative, cosmopolitan pop music. Except, ostensibly, for Vicious Circle and Ministry of Fear - the most "Propaganda-esque" of the tracks, there are no dark edges - musically, lyrically, or in the production - no edges at all, in fact.
It's easy to imagine the reprise of Vicious accompanying some of Michael Mann's imagery. On How Much Love, Betsi Miller's voice releases a hope that almost leaves the listener suspended in mid-air before each verse is first resolved, and then grounded by the chorus. Heaven Give Me Words is just consummately executed late summer pop sunshine. Wound In My Heart cordially fills a lighter waving slot and balances the remainder inoffensively enough, while La Carne, La Morte E Il Diavolo paints a cinematic soundscape more involving than any by Yello.
This album slots straight into the "unjustly overlooked" box without need even to consider the more commercially rewarded wood-chip offerings before, during and since.
If you listen without caring who, what, why, when, or how, it will stay on repeat through the winter nights well into next summer. If you come looking for Propaganda, as other reviewers have opined, perhaps you'll be disappointed... then again, like me, maybe you'll be captivated.
The 80's were over. This album underlines their passing to perfection. Only One Word: Beautiful.
on 16 November 2007
The pleasures of this album are less strident than those of A Secret Wish, requiring many more listens to fully excavate, but it's well worth the effort. Certainly, in 1990 it came as a surprise to encounter this subtle and seductive new sound. Only One Word, however, is a classic (much enhanced by a couple of blistering David Gilmour guitar solos) and the closing instrumental, La Carne La Morte e il Diavolo, is none the worse for its nagging resemblance to Ennio Morricone's Chi Mai. A nice through-line from the previous Propaganda is provided by the fragment of Susanne Freytag vocal included on the sinister opener Vicious Circle, and Betsi Miller's lead vocals elsewhere on the album lend a disorientating touch of MOR to an otherwise forbidding sound. It's a pity, however, that two B-sides from this period - Open Spaces and Count Zero - are not included on the CD.
This was a disappointing release for me back in 1990. I knew that Claudia had left and a new singer had been drafted in, but it was always going to be difficult to match A Secret Wish.
There are a few cracking tunes on here: Your Wildlife, Only One Word, but ultmately, it just doesn't quite do it. Shame.
on 30 August 2000
And you just cannot stop playing it.
I have owned this album on tape for a few years and I have worn it out!
The music is more than just pop it sends shivers down my spine when I hear it.
You won't get that from stuff you here in the charts these days!
on 23 June 2008
This album offers a very weak and diluted version of the epic soundscape found on Secret Wish and Wishful Thinking. A couple of decent tracks on here so worth buying if you can find it for the price of a single but it is just as dispiriting now as it was then to see Propaganda sliding into limp pop pap. Seek out Claudia Brucken's solo work for a more satisfying follow-up to the aforementioned Propaganda albums.