Tell me how you do this. How do you put out two amazingly complex art-rock records in the same year with this amount of quality and imagination? More inventive songs, more hooks, more big grand choruses, more great guitar work, just more great music. Suffice it to say if you liked the direction they were heading on the Sunburst Finish album from earlier in the year, this will be candy for your ears.
Bill Nelson’s dreamy approach mixed with a Rock & Roll sense of humor is always there in Be Bop Deluxe. Some of the better tunes here are the Ziggy Stardust inspired “The Bird Charmer’s Destiny,” the guitar-laden “Bring Back the Spark,” and the reggae turnaround on “Twilight Capers.” “The Gold at the End of My Rainbow” has another big sing-a-long chorus that Be Bop Deluxe does so well and (again) great fluid guitar work by Mr. Nelson. The island feel on “Kiss of Light” and the short but sweet closer “Make the Music Magic” add color to the whole proceeding and entertain thoroughly.
I love some of the more freeform jazz sections that happen on “Dance of the Uncle Sam Humanoids” from the epic title song and the end of “Forbidden Lovers.” It makes me wish that Bill had headed more in that direction for Be Bop’s next and final album 1978’s Drastic Plastic, instead of the electronic new wave latch-on that record felt like.
The lengthy “Modern Music” suite starts as a radio changes from station to station with Be Bop Deluxe’s glories from the past on every frequency until it reaches a target that gives us “Modern Music.” This is without a doubt the best work on the album. It moves from wonderful song to another wonderful song seamlessly and without a care to conventional songwriting. It’s unclear whether it ends at the “Modern Music Reprise,” but it does not matter, the last three songs are just as strong.
I see this definitely as the sister record to Sunburst Finish from earlier the same year. There is even a winking reference on “Lost In the Neon World” that recalls “Life In the Air Age” from that previous album. Both Modern Music and Sunburst Finish are the finest records in Be Bop Deluxe’s canon. Although Sunburst Finish is more consistent from start to finish, Modern Music has the epic title suite that may be the best thing they’ve ever done as a group.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on August 11th, 2011