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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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The Buggles have their place in music history because their quirky hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" has the distinction of being the first music video shown on MTV. But their 1980 debut album "Age of Plastic" deserves to be remembered on its own terms; not just for the "futuristic" music, but because the lyrics represent a coherent critique of the world of technology as being full of potential but fraught with peril. Even a cursory look at "Video Killed the Radio Star" shows the song is offering up less than subtle ironies about the medium of pop music, not to mention the fledgling MTV. The Buggles consisted of the tandem of Geoffrey Downes on percussion/keyboards and Trevor Horn doing bass/guitar/percussion/vocals, both of who were obviously more interested in producing. That same year they produced the Yes album "Drama," and the pair ended up joining the group and replacing Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman.
Pay attention to the lyrics on this album. "Kid Dynamo" is about the death of imagination in the age of mass media, a proposition that is clearly becoming more and more obvious with each year. "I Love You Miss Robot" is not kinky, despite its title, and is about the pitfalls of human dependence on technology. As for the music, it is pretty diverse. ""Video Killed the Radio Star" is upbeat and peppy while "Johnny on the Monorail" is the exact opposite, dark and brooding. Of course, at the time the use of electronic devices was considered cutting edge and the novelty of it all distracted from the potency of the lyrics. The Alan Parsons Project tried to do something along these lines with with 1977's "I Robot," but that effort seems ponderous and pretentious when compared to "Age of Plastic." I think I could make a compelling argument that this is one of the top ten, or at least top two dozen albums, from the decade (and you can go either way on that as the end of the 1970s or the start of the 1980s).
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on 29 September 2001
I'll admit, I bough this album for "Video", only to discover that the entire album is excellent. Standouts of course would include "Clean, Clean", "Elstree", "Plastic Age", and of course "Video Killed the Radio Star". It should be mentioned that although Amazon's review mentions drum machines, all the drums were actually played by a real drummer (none other than Ultravox's Warren Cann), though Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes wanted him to sound like a drum machine ('cause they didn't have one at the time)!
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on 20 February 2006
Contrary to its title and futuristic sleeve design (futuristic, at least, for 1980) the Buggles duo's first album harks back to a lost or rapidly vanishing world as much it looks forward with trepidation to the creation of a dystopian society. And despite the modernity and precision of the production (as standard with anything Trevor Horn is involved with) it is because of these themes, realised through wit, sadness, jadedness, fear and nostaligic hankering for the way things once were, that the The Age of Plastic easily surpasses other souless electronica dross churned out at the same time by the likes of Gary Numan and the Human League et al and which sadly came to characterise the worst of 1980s vulgarity.
From the off The Age of Plastic throws the listener into a superficial and sinister world of the not-to-distant future with the number Living In The Plastic Age. In this world burnt-out workers who are no longer of use to their masters are abruplty disposed of ('They send the heart police to put you under cardiac arrest/And as they darg you through the door they tell you that you've failed a test'), thus pre-empting the imminent assault launched upon employees' rights throughout the 1980s. Furthermore, and with astonishing perceptiveness, it goes on to forecast the decline of manufacturing industries in favour of a financial services-led economy as characterised in Britain by Thatcherism ('Talking fast I make a deal/Buy the fake and sell what's real'); and the growing fad for vanity/cosmetic surgery ('Hello Doctor! Lift my Face/I wish my skin could stand the pace'). These plesant sounding, almost child-like, rhymes coupled with jolly fairground-like keyboards give the song a darkly comic but appealing twist.
Little needs to said about Video Killed The Radio Star, except that it is a very sad and wistful look-back to a bygone era which perfectly suits Horn's thin transatlantic whingings/vocals, whatever other criticisms may be levelled against them. Video, like the track Elstree which is also a direct piece of nostalgia, are both appropriately enough straightforward and traditional in their arrangements, although the faked drum machine approach in Video cleverly moulds its other theme of encroaching and lifeless modernity to the central idea of a lost age.
Indeed, Elstree is a significant song as it confirms the The Buggles were essentially concerned with warning of the dangers of losing by the turn of the 1970s/80s the old certanties they themselves had grown up with in post-war Britain. Elstree is a lament to the once great but now quickly declining British film industry at a time when any number of other industries were set to go the same way. In many ways The Age Of Plastic stands for the post-war atmosphere of hope and consensus as much as the Royal Festival Hall on the Thames' South Bank does.
The energetic Kid Dynamo imagines two friends in the materially-obsessed near future looking back to their pasts and one reflecting upon the lost idealism of the other who is now bloated with greed having bought into for the media's hype he once so despised.
Much else is to be found which paints an even stranger picture of what the future may be like. I Love You (Miss Robot) is another particular and bizarre highlight, containing some almost risque lyrics about a chap conducting a relationship with an android! The metronomic and highly-pitched desperate background vocals certainly lend it a slightly disturbing edge.
The slightly less peculiar Astroboy (And The Proles On Parade) and Johnny On The Monorail suffer from a slight dip in quality but are still interesting visions of The Buggles' dystopian dread. However, the entertaining and highly kitch/camp Clean, Clean more than makes up for any minor blips whilst also dealing with the erstwhile duo's concerns about increasing Cold War tensions in the Reagan/Thatcher period.
So, all in all, a great sounding and very intelligent record from two men who would go to have even more financially successful, but certainly not as artistically successful careers. The follow-up Buggles record Adventures In Modern Recording would not be such a collaborative or cohesive effort, but there again due to the limitations of electronica and Horn's vocal abilities room for progression, in all likelihood, was cramped. Nevertheless, The Age Of Plastic forces me to concede that what I never felt possible: that I could enjoy electronica and that it could be so much better than its other bland incarnations and be rightly regarded as classic pop.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon 15 November 2005
The Buggles have their place in music history because their quirky hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" has the distinction of being the first music video shown on MTV. But their 1980 debut album "Age of Plastic" deserves to be remembered on its own terms; not just for the "futuristic" music, but because the lyrics represent a coherent critique of the world of technology as being full of potential but fraught with peril. Even a cursory look at "Video Killed the Radio Star" shows the song is offering up less than subtle ironies about the medium of pop music, not to mention the fledgling MTV. The Buggles consisted of the tandem of Geoffrey Downes on percussion/keyboards and Trevor Horn doing bass/guitar/percussion/vocals, both of who were obviously more interested in producing. That same year they produced the Yes album "Drama," and the pair ended up joining the group and replacing Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman.
Pay attention to the lyrics on this album. "Kid Dynamo" is about the death of imagination in the age of mass media, a proposition that is clearly becoming more and more obvious with each year. "I Love You Miss Robot" is not kinky, despite its title, and is about the pitfalls of human dependence on technology. As for the music, it is pretty diverse. ""Video Killed the Radio Star" is upbeat and peppy while "Johnny on the Monorail" is the exact opposite, dark and brooding. Of course, at the time the use of electronic devices was considered cutting edge and the novelty of it all distracted from the potency of the lyrics. The Alan Parsons Project tried to do something along these lines with with 1977's "I Robot," but that effort seems ponderous and pretentious when compared to "Age of Plastic." I think I could make a compelling argument that this is one of the top ten, or at least top two dozen albums, from the decade (and you can go either way on that as the end of the 1970s or the start of the 1980s).
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on 26 February 2005
The days of cold dark winter mornings getting ready then walking to school. 'Video Killed the Radio Star' and 'Plastic Age' on the radio before breakfast TV came along. I only bought this album 3 years ago; songs such as 'Astro Boy,Technopop and Kid Dynamo' although they were on the B side of the singles i owned in 79/80 never got listenend to.These songs are so beautifully forlorn and at the same time optimistic about the future.The reprise at the end of'Video'(not on the single)sets off emotions long ago left behind in 1979. ''i heard you on the wireless back in '52..' in 79 that was 27 years in the past, now 1979 + 27 = 2006. So next year look back down that same length of time and see if 'Video' evokes the same thoughts.Im glad to be living in the Age of Plastic...
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on 27 August 2005
This is an exceptional album of nostalgia and pulsating electricity! As a synth musician myself, I drift off into a world of awe when I hear it, especially 'Living in the Plastic Age'. Most people remember 'Video Killed The Radio Star', but 'Living in the Plastic Age' is indeed a finer track. It borders on classical synth pop and is amazingly written. But then again, Trevor Horn has produced for many major artists including the Pet Shop Boys and Madonna.
Go on, buy the album! It's only 3 and a half quid for pete's sake! You'll love it!
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on 26 February 2005
Cold grey winter mornings listening to the radio at breakfast time or daydreaming out of the school classroom window...thats my memory of Buggles music. I only bought this album 3 years ago but had the singles at time of release. All the album tracks are forlorn and haunting but also optimistic about the future. Astroboy, Kid Dynamo and Technpop were B sides on the singles but I never played them.... The reprise on 'Video' is the most evocative for me and just think..''i saw you on the wireless back in 52..'' that was 27 years ago for the girl in 1979-next year will be 27 years on from 'Video'..I'm glad that I am living in the Plastic Age...
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on 27 April 2014
Dating from way back when, 1980, and following on from the number 1 charting single "Video killed the radio star", this album is really far better than I thought it might have been.
I bought it off the back of the "Asia-live in Japan" CD/DVD compilation, in which Asia perform "Video". By the way, this DVD is really very, very good for any Asia fans out there.
Stand out tracks for me, aside from "Video", which has an ending I can't recall being on the original single release, are:
The Plastic Age: A catchy tune, good orchestration, and super choral undertones. A weird start. This interestingly reached number 16 in the charts as their 2nd single.
Clean,clean: Catchy start, fast paced, cheerful punchy middle section, with an unexpected change of pace at the conclusion.
Elstree: Suprisingly melodic.
Johnny on the monorail: Fast paced, catchy, with a great start.
Island: 99% instrumental. Excellent. 10/10 for this track alone.
Horn and Downes moved on to perform with Yes after this album, where they definately stamped their own style on that groups music, in my opinion.
Yeh, silly name for the team of Horn and Downes, but a bit of whimsey there, as it was based on The Beatles (Beatles/Buggles.....get it?)
Even a nineteen year old woman listening to this album thought it was "good", and sounded "up to date".
Can't be bad then.
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on 27 April 2015
Required listening for anyone thinking of a career in music technology, a perfect balance between producer and performer. In the present age of super-compression this is the benchmark of how to make something sound remarkable. With a wide range of interesting effects, instrumental and vocal resources, Trevor Horn mixes the magic once again. OK, 'Video Killed' might be the one-hit wonder on here but there is much to be had from the other tracks and some raunchy lyrics which are eye-opening. And who doesn't sing along with the famous ooh-ooh of that track?!
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on 12 October 2015
This cd is what is known as a "classic" rock cd. Not only because of their music, a mix of pop, 80 s' synth and rock. Video Killed the Radio Star is the hit here but the rest of the songs are also very good and stand well alone. The Buggles, only did record two albums and then became part of YES producing the album DRAMA, and also Asia.
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