1234 (Virgin LP/Cassette/CD)
ALL ART is propaganda, but not all propaganda is art—or so said top bedsit angst merchant George Orwell. And how right he was. You all remember Propaganda—the group—from Frankie-era mid-‘80s. They were a Teutonic Abba with a machinery fixation, and their ZTT album ‘A Secret Wish’ was fine. Jagged, spooky, and the first track sounded reassuringly like an album called ‘Big Terror Movie Themes’ by the Geoff Love Orchestra.
Odd, then, that ‘1234', Propaganda’s second LP—five years later—should also open with a Geoff Love theme. It’s a promising, if in the circumstances, somewhat safe, beginning—and is doubly odd when you consider that Propaganda 1990 only contain one original member. The arch and throaty Claudia Brucken is sorely missed from the new crew; her replacement Betsi Miller proffers far too silky a vocal to conjure up the haunting, haunted screenscape of ‘A Secret Wish’.
Not that recreating the old album is the only objective of ‘1234'. Amongst all the arty, crafty atmosphere-by-numbers there wriggles an uncomfortable desire to have hits. The atrocious, pappy ‘Heaven Give Me Words’ has already been one—and other, rounded chart-lickers herein include ‘Only One Word’ which pales from an underhand Cocteau Twins-style intro to a sub-Christians mountaintop chant; ‘How Much Love’ which is ABC-that-doesn’t-know-when-to-shut-up, and ‘Wound In My Heart’—as inspiring as current Fleetwood Mac.
It’s not all bad news, though. ‘Vicious Circle’ coolly throws away the same 1982 piano lines that form the lifeblood of Billy MacKenzie’s latest album, and whisks up a pleasing submarine ‘ambience’. ‘La Carne, La Morte E Il Diavolo’ is also fetching, even if it does lift the old Gordon’s Gin ad tune. But the indecisiveness of an album that wants to be Sonia and Pink Floyd is ultimately its own undoing.(4)