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Title: War is stupid
Author: Mat Snow
Source: NME
Publish date: 13th April, 1985

WAR IS STUPID

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD

Hammersmith Odeon

“HALLO HAMMERSMITH… we are U2!” Holly say. Some say, ha ha, very funny; I say, many a true word spoken in jest.

Welcome to the power trip. As of now, Frankie Goes To Hollywood are making a career out of proving the law of diminishing returns. ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’ thrilled because in every respect Frankie manned a machine-gun of comparative climaxes in a pop-era crammed with anticlimaxes. Their excitement sprung from everybody else’s yawning gap. But now the whole world wears a Big T-shirt…

Start with an earthquake and build from there, old Hollywood mogul Sam Goldwyn used to say. The logical consequence of that is the disaster movie, and here we have it, in living boring Dome-o-scope.

Thus ‘War’ sets the pace. Holly, the banana republic generalisimo, locks into the joyless, sweating, mock-saturnine mode which we are to endure for the next 75 minutes. Paul, a less cynical trouper, doggedly throws himself through the motions too, only permitting himself a few half-smiles of enjoyment towards the end when he’s down to his nipple-rings. Spike, Eccles, Bluebottle, Ringo and Bert pound away and gambol around the stage like spring lambs or fresh-faced young pomp-rockers, whichever come sooner. Technical-ability muscles are flexed and much ado is made of their brickie heterosexuality. Mucho macho muso.

What we have here are a pair of one-joke cabaret dames fronting a gung-ho British neo-rock band on a dry run for the American stadium circuit. What we have here is that smelly beast, the show of effects without causes. From bombast to boredom in the space of three smoke-bombs, the first chorus to one of those interminable driller-fillers from ‘Pleasure Drone’, and the disappointing revelation of glib back-projected images that quite likely would fall far short of inducing foaming consternation in watch committees from Tunbridge Wells to Weston-Super-Mare.

The audience say thcweeeam!!!, long and loud, coyly lobbing onstage outgrown 32-A cup bras brought specially for the purpose, safe in their participation in a phenomenon so Hi-NRG pantomime and all-popular as to alienate them neither from their parents nor indeed their own peer-group.

Flash back to that shameless minx Marc Bolan. Frankie honky-tonk ‘Get It On’ into a jolly Tiswas knees-up without so much of a whiff of the leg-over breathed so heavily in the salaciously syncopated original. No, Frankie are not funky. They are road-menders, pumping pneumatic energy into a limp routine. All hot air, no tension-and-release, no drama.

Exhibit B: that swaying anthem to roots England, ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’. Frankie-wise, it’s ‘Imagine’ as performed by The Boomtown Rats. Get the picture? Exhibit C: ‘The Power Of Love’, their idea of ‘ A Song For Europe’ for the ‘80s, my idea of the grandest, least moving ballad of all time, lumbered out at a Queenly pace, a pompous brontosaurus-beat. Exhibit D: ‘Born To Run’ going nowhere fast, grinding to a halt in a crescendo of keyboard screech and metal-buckling worthy of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

“You don’t get an encore unless you scream your heads off! Louder! LOUDER!! Keep it coming!”

Holly, old chap, I can see it now - summer nights at the Houston Astrodome and the triumphant homecoming Christmas shows at the Liverpool Royal Court. Meanwhile, keep pressing the panic button until somebody wakes up and asks where, exactly, is the fire.

As any astronomer will say, “Shooting stars never stop, just turn into lumps of rock…”

Mat Snow