Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC: 1981 – THE REELS – Quasimodo’s Dream

Review by Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by Nina A

If you like the second song on this album, Shout & Deliver, I don’t like you. The song shows that not only established artists (the rock dinosaurs) tended to fail miserably in producing their records in the 80’s but that it trickled down to minor artists such as the Reels. An automated keyboard figure repeated ad infinitum, synthetic drums and group singing of slogans. Come to mention it, the third song, After the News, runs into the same problem, crashing into the ground by itself. The reggae-ish rhythm (played by the keyboard) doesn’t help either. It somewhat resembles Fraction Too Much Friction by Tim Finn (ex-Split Enz, future Crowded house, who is from ‘basically’ the same region).
According to my Heart has a nice enough doo wop feeling and a nice melody but again the production ruins it: plastic drums, silly bass synthesizer and singing on automatic pilot. Yes, it can be nice to sing this in the shower, or with a group of friends in the car, but unfortunately it’s not nice to listen to by yourself.
Depression is sort of Clash-light, around the time of Sandinista, but then taken to its simple extreme. Embarrassingly so, really. And so is Colourful Clothes. For all we know starts somewhat differently, but they can’t keep it up, it does not stand out, the singer lacks any charisma (more like singing by committee). Media Themes has a nice shuffle rhythm (in the first theme) and vaguely sounds like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark because of it. Because there’s no singing involved, it’s the best track on here, although that doesn’t say a lot (and the third theme basically ruins it, if only because there’s singing).
Cancer is slower than most of the others and shouting Cancer cancer! comes across as an early version of Weens HIV (the AIDS song), but that’s probably not their intention. Apart from this chanting vamp, nothing much happens, just some jungle noises and some silly voices.
Dubbo Go Go thinks it can equal ‘pretentiousness and ambition’ with ‘ability’, and fails painfully in doing so so. Slowing down does give you a chance to marvel at the singer: how can you be so non-descript and sing professionally? Also, suddenly this song lasts more than 5 minutes, where 3 would suffice to develop the ‘themes’ such as they are. Kitchen Man is another long (5,5 minutes) song that overstays its welcome.
And what about the title track, the hit single, the first song on the album? It’s a bit different, but not really better: more beeps and synthetic gamelan sounds, somewhat more emotion in the singing (that is really OK for this type of pop music), and perhaps a hit single that fits the time. But again, over 4 minutes is way too long and listening 35 years later this music has become completely irrelevant.
I really tried to look for New wave cleverness (i.e. Talking heads) or some interesting musical stylings in the instrumental parts, some great riffs or nice melodies, but that’s sadly impossible. On the whole, if you like this happy, westernized party music ska or reggae, go for something like El Rayo X by David Lyndley, or the Clash if you’re more (left wing) politically inclined and have a lot of fun. Stay away from this, as it’s definitely not comparable to INXS, Crowded House, Split Enz and the like.