What does it sound like?:
I honestly believe Bronski Beat’s The Age Of Consent is one of the greatest protest albums ever made. In 1984, when it was released, the age of consent in the UK for homosexual acts remained at 21. Most of Europe had already reduced it to the same age for heterosexuals, 16. In addition, there were still restrictions, such as it being illegal for homosexuals to use hotel rooms for sex. Homophobia was rife and gay-bashing alarmingly common. Bronski Beat successfully captured the bitterness and anger caused by the injustice and the joyful abandonment of liberation. They did it through the medium of Hi-NRG dance music, fronted by a diminutive, shaven-headed, Doc Marten booted singer with an ear-shattering falsetto. The Age Of Consent is the story of triumph over adversity, full of grit and poetry, determination and exultation. It’s perfect.
Bronski Beat is led by Steve Bronski but Jimmy Somerville drew all the attention. It was the only album they made together.
33 years later, we are treated to The Age Of Reason. It is a reworking, a re-recording, a re-imagining, call it what you will, of The Age Of Consent with a different singer and, somewhat bizarrely, the addition of a few new tracks. I have to say, the replacement singer, Stephen Granville, is excellent. His voice is smooth in the middle register and pure in falsetto, in contrast to Somerville, who was somewhat harsh and shrill respectively. Modern synthesisers are much easier on the ear, too, with greater range and depth. The overall result is not unpleasant. I especially like how they put together No More War and It Ain’t Necessarily So into a laid back groove of a medley. However, sanding off the rough edges of The Age Of Consent misses the point and renders it impotent, even if initiated by one-who-was-there.
The three new tracks aren’t up to much either. One is a straightforward cover of Sylvester’s Stars, I’ll Be Gone is standard dancefloor-filler and A Flower For Dandara is a worthy, but strangely unmoving, tribute to murdered Brazilian trans-sexual Dandara dos Santos. CD 2, big sigh, consists of multiple remixes of these three songs.
Sadly, The Age Of Reason sounds like an ageing has-been, whereas The Age Of Consent still bounces with the vigour of youth. Buy the 2012 remaster instead, it’s a 10/10 stone-cold classic.
What does it all *mean*?
Has a rerecording ever been better than the original album?
Goes well with…
I suspect amyl nitrate poppers are required to really make the most of The Age Of Reason.
Might suit people who like…
An afternoon nap.