A Flock of Seagulls: unfairly branded as a one-hit-wonder with a novelty haircut. In fact, their self-titled debut album formed a benchmark for British New Wave.
Optimistic, melodic, and with a futuristic grandeur, it was a departure from the punkier acts of the US towards a more emotional sound that would grow into the New Romantic genre as the decade trundled on. They were, of course, best remembered for the timeless I Ran (So Far Away), a track whose fantastic delayed guitar runs, shimmering imagery, and killer hook would define the band and remains a cultural touchstone for the music of the time.
None of that beauty, balladry, or killer strumming is missing on the bands latest release: ‘String Theory’. The second instalment of their ‘Orchestral Hits opus’ sees A Flock of Seagulls add scores of strings to their synth lines, adding heaps of opulence while retaining the best elements of their classic sound.
A big reason for this is the amount of room they give Paul Reynolds (lead guitarist) in the mix. His playing painted vibrant streaks across a lot of their earlier output, and with an orchestra to squeeze in, one could be worried he’d be left out in the cold. Instead, he shines on tracks like ‘Messages’ and ‘Living in Heaven’, where he battles the striking string sections in high-tempo synth standoffs.
The orchestral addition does get its time to shine too. The reimagined ‘Say You Love Me’ takes on a greater melancholy, spinning and soaring around Mike Score’s [lead vocals, keyboard] hopeless pining for lost love. On ‘The Story Of A Young Heart’, they build stronger and more swirling as the track moves forward before shattering behind the synth solo.
By cherry-picking songs from across five albums and getting all four members back into the studio (I must mention Ali Score [drums] and Frank Maudsley [bass]), the Seagulls were able to include the many sides of their sound and not feel dated at all. Sometimes that’s moodier, with the scathing Sisters of Mercy style guitar of ‘Rainfall‘, or more optimistic, like the blue-sky mentality of ‘Never Again (The Dancer)‘. Either way, the orchestra consistently empowers the sound – Score’s declarations of love are more triumphant while his feelings of forlorn seem inescapable.
Now, I should point out this one has some deep cuts on it. In 2018, the Seagulls released the first in this series, ‘Ascension’, where you’ll find the likes of I Ran, Wishing (If I Had A Photograph of You) and Space Age Love Song. That doesn’t mean the album isn’t worth mining for its stellar moments. It’s a great release and a great way to re-contextualise the band, remembering them for their pioneering pop instead of one bad hair day.
Join the flock! Hear more from the band at the links below:
Words by Nathan Makalena