I remember the revered pop-journalist Paul Lester remarking in 1990 how he was often mocked by his peers for suggesting that ABC (and the Pet Shop Boys) were the future of pop. I never think for a moment Paul was referring to sales or suggesting they would ever recreate the impact they had in 82, however I do believe he was recognising Martin Fry's ability to pen great, classic pop material - and this should be a blueprint, perhaps a Platonic "Form" by which all future pop should model itself against.
Traffic is an exceptional album and for my money Martin Fry's most mature work - long gone is the melodrama of Lexicon or eccentricity of Zillionaire. Traffic is tempered by the priceless wisdom of age, and is all the more uplifting for it. "Caroline" is playing in the background as I write, and I can't help but salute Martin's renaissance. The melody blossoms from nowhere, sounds so organic, sophisticated and is the very antithesis of much of the contrived radio fodder we're fed with these days!
Martin was always a closet rocker - and as he did with "Rolling Sevens" and "Love Is It's Own Reward" on Skyscraping, he shows us once again he can hold his own with this genre with the opening track "16 Seconds To Choose". If the fates had been kinder to Beauty Stab, there's no doubting ABC would've have been packing arenas with guitar bombast. Martin is an extremely versatile writer, but the public have shallow perceptions - the lamé suit, for all it's benefits has been as much a shackle too.
In my opinion, Martin excels himself with "Validation" and "Lose Yourself". Perfect radio material - and as a fledgling music publisher myself, I can assure you these tracks can be perfectly placed for licensing to ad agencies! There's little profit to be made from sales, but if we want to hear more ABC in the future Martin must exploit these avenues. This by no means denigrates the tracks, they're "fantastic compositions" (nod) - but to ensure we don't have to wait another 11 years, PLEASE make the most of these 2 wonderful tunes. I notice Martin has no publisher attached to the album either...not for long I suspect!
Love Is Strong appears to be a fan favourite in the early feedback, and rightly so - the song embraces the cinematic elements of ABC earlier material and has an emotional power that resonates. Not a single, but certainly an album defining tune.
"Minus Love" reminds me of "One Day"(Alphabet City) with it's romantic 80's R&B styling, "Life Shapes You" - exhilarating, life affirming. The combined production skills of Fry, Kentis and Palmer must also be congratulated - it's a very accomplished sound, a high quality recording that will sound gorgeous through your Wharfedales! (I must say how nice it is to hear Dave Palmer's signature "closed-hat" rolls throughout the album...)
Martin, this is a brilliant work. I wish you all the recognition and success you deserve - now take the album out live, and leave behind everything pre-1990. You've done the cabaret circuit, now let's see the real ABC...That Was Then, This is NOW!