Laughter Tears And Rage ☆☆☆☆
ZTT ZTT 185 CD (69:40)
Stylish electronica pioneers reprised with extras
Originally titled Pandemonium, Act’s 1988 album is finally reissued alongside Anthology, a 3-CD retrospective. But it’s a double-edged sword. Collectors will leap at the 10 extra tracks (five on CD for the first time) but new listeners will be thrown. The original vinyl album sounded and felt like a true performance—some of the most in-your-face, glamorous and intellectual electronica ever produced. But this new 22-track version loses all structure, and suffers as a result. So use the program button on your CD player to follow the original sequence, and save all the extras for later.
Of these, head straight for ‘White Rabbit’—a delightful Jefferson Airplane cover, ‘(Theme From) I Can’t Escape From You’—a barmy piano session, and ‘Short Story’—an atmospheric interlude previously only available on the original 1988 vinyl edition. It’s all cast inside a wall of sound—the trademark of producer Trevor Horn and his then-apprentice Steve Lipson. Lipson’s work is great—this was well before he went bland with Annie Lennox. And Horn devotees will also hear echoes of this album in later collaborations with Inge (‘Riding Into Blue’) and Betsy Cook (‘Love Is The Groove’).
Claudia Brücken and Thomas Leer gave Act their all. Brucken’s vocals on ‘Snobbery & Decay’ and ‘I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You’ are unrelenting and Leer’s sounds and solos—especially on ‘Snobbery (Extended For Stephanie Beacham)’ and ‘Bloodrush’—are gorgeous. If the A’s in your CD collection include Aphex Twin, Age Of Chance, ABC or Art Of Noise, then Act urgently needs to join the ranks.