Category: Lost Albums (Page 1 of 13)

Lost Albums: RED FLAG Naïve Art

Comprising of brothers Mark and Chris Reynolds, although they were originally from Liverpool, RED FLAG were based in San Diego.

The Reynolds had lived in many places across the globe due to their father’s work as a Naval Officer, but eventually the family settled in California. Acquiring a Roland Juno 60 synthesizer, the sibling duo were very influenced by DEPECHE MODE. First recording as SHADES OF MAY, their minimal synth number ‘Distant Memories’ was included on the ‘91X Local Heroes 1984’ sampler album compiled by radio station 91X.

Invitations to perform live came thick and fast as the brothers relocated to San Diego and took their music more seriously, studying computer-based music technology and eventually changing their name to RED FLAG. With accusations that they were communist sympathizers, the pair said that “red flag” was taken from the signal used on beaches by lifeguards warning of high hazards due to rough currents. The term has since become ubiquitous as a warning sign, particularly in relationships.

While performing at a party in Southern California, the pair came to the attention of producer Jon St James who had worked with BERLIN, been a member of SSQ and was now helming the solo career of their lead singer Stacey Q.

Released in Summer 1988 as a 12” single on St James’ Synthicide Records, ‘Broken Heart’ gained airplay on the influential KROQ-FM in Pasadena via DJ Richard Blade. The Bristol-born expat had championed the likes of DURAN DURAN, DEPECHE MODE, THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS, OMD and NEW ORDER on the West Coast and by coincidence, had also been the secret boyfriend of BERLIN’s Terri Nunn when Jon St James was assistant engineer on their 1982 breakthrough EP ‘Pleasure Victim’.

After the monotone heard on ‘Distant Memories’, Mark Reynolds had developed a vocal timbre similar to Martin Gore, as well stylising a look based on him. Described on the single’s sticker as “Sonically Seductive Performers A La Mode From The Grey Ambience Of Liverpool”, ‘Broken Heart’ was what DM would have sounded like if they had worked with Giorgio Moroder instead of Daniel Miller. Throbbing and energetic, there were backing vocals from Stacey Q who had also coached the singer during the recording.

Again produced by Jon St James, the next RED FLAG single ‘Russian Radio’ released by Synthicide Records was even better. With a great chorus and a romantic view of Eastern Europe, the song was full of catchy staccato voice samples, metallic beats and digital bass syncopation to give ‘The Great Commandment’ by CAMOUFLAGE a run for its money.

Just as OMD had been fascinated by the stark Cold War era of shortwave radio broadcasts from behind The Iron Curtain, so had RED FLAG. But lyrics declaring “I feel our love is only a smile away, getting so much closer to me every day” gave a more positive outlook in the era of Glasnost lead by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. As the USSR promised more openness and transparency on the route to peace, the 12” A side was named the ‘Glasnost Club Mix’ to reflect this.

Convinced they had found the next DEPECHE MODE in the wake of their Pasadena Rose Bowl triumph, Synthicide Records’ parent label Enigma released RED FLAG’s debut album ‘Naïve Art’ in 1989. Although they were best known for releasing records by hair metal rockers POISON, they also had DEVO on their roster as well as providing an American home to more esoteric British artists such as Bill Nelson and WIRE.

Having been involved in the remixes of ‘Russian Radio’, Paul Robb of INFORMATION SOCIETY, who had found success with their Dr McCoy and Mr Spock sampling single ‘What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy)’, was brought in to produce ‘Naïve Art’ and reshaped ‘Broken Heart’ in the process. Opening proceedings, the punchy hook-laden ‘If I Ever’ was disaffected yet euphoric HI-NRG and made a great third single.

A play the title of the John Hughes film whose white middle class teen movies were prevalent at the time, ‘Pretty In Pity’ wallowed in melancholy while playing with lighter metallic touches and melodic rings. Coming over like ‘Heart’ by PET SHOP BOYS with added orchestra stabs, ‘Give Me Your Hand’ was swathed in chromatic filmic mystery. Likely to have been inspired by DEPECHE MODE’s flop US single ‘But Not Tonight’, ‘Save Me Tonight’ was very Gore like in its tone and approach.

However, the rest of ‘Naïve Art’ did not quite hit the highs of the first three singles or ‘Give Me Your Hand’. There was the more steadfast mid-paced ‘All Roads Lead To You’ while much speedier, ‘Count To Three’ suffered from an over long hi-hat breakdown at its conclusion. ‘I Don’t Know Why’ was not particularly adventurous lyrically, repeating the title several times over in the chorus.

Perhaps in an attempt to show that RED FLAG were more than just DEPECHE MODE clones, after the very European approach of the first nine songs, the album took an about turn with the soul ballad ‘Rain’; sounding like it wouldn’t have been out of place on a Paul Young album, there were even echoes of the Phyllis Nelson smooch slowie ‘Move Closer’. To close, there was a pleasant if almost incongruous classical piano piece ‘Für Michelle’.

Mixed by Joseph Watt of specialist remix service Razormaid whose edits and mixes were very popular in the alternative clubs of New York and Los Angeles, ‘Naïve Art’ was a promising debut that showcased the potential of RED FLAG’s songcraft. An enjoyable if derivate long player, although their music was melancholic, RED FLAG had less of the pessimistic doom that had hung over DEPECHE MODE’s output since ‘Black Celebration’ and more akin to their fourth album ‘Some Great Reward’.

Although electronic pop with danceable beats and industrial sounding samples was booming in the US at this point, a backlash in the shape of grunge was just round the corner. RED FLAG would go on to open for DEVO, BOOK OF LOVE and REAL LIFE, but with Enigma folding, the Reynolds brothers would move onto an unhappy period with IRS Records for the single ‘Machines’ in 1992. Forming their own an independent record label Plan B Records, RED FLAG issued their laid back second album ‘The Lighthouse’ in 1994, before heading towards a much darker direction by 2000’s ‘The Crypt’ and sharing live bills with emerging European acts like MESH and DE/VISION.

Releasing albums prolifically, after ‘Codebreaker t133’ which set all its songs at 133BPM, Mark Reynolds sadly took his own life in 2003. After a period of grieving, Chris Reynolds returned as RED FLAG in 2007 with ‘Born Again’ which exuded more gothic overtones and included a song called ‘Doom & Gloom’. The final RED FLAG album to date came with ‘Serenity’ in 2012.

In 2020, ‘Naïve Art’ was reissued by Pylon Records as an expanded edition. While not groundbreaking, as one of the first releases from a DEPECHE MODE influenced act (of which today there are far too many!), ‘Naïve Art’ retains a melodic and rhythmic charm that captures a much more innocent time in music that is worthy of revisiting.

The Reynolds brothers handily sounded the way they looked during this period and had credible American producers to realise their initial vision. ‘Naïve Art’ was never officially released in the UK and for that reason alone, RED FLAG remain relatively unknown in their country of birth, even among electronic pop enthusiasts.

So, if you have never heard of RED FLAG before and are curious, you know what to do…

‘Naïve Art’ is available via Pylon Records as a 30th Anniversary double vinyl LP edition from

An expanded 2CD featuring radio edits and Razormaid remixes is available at

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Alex Remlin
22 November 2023

Lost Albums: CICERO Future Boy

A fan of synthpop and dance music, David Cicero began writing songs and making music in his bedroom, aided by advancements in technology such as affordable samplers and sequencing software. His set-up eventually included a Korg T3, an Akai sequencer, an Akai sampler and a Roland rack mount synth.

Following a PET SHOP BOYS concert in 1989, the lad from Livingston in West Lothian managed to get a demo tape to the duo and before two could be divided by zero, Cicero was offered a record deal with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s new record label Spaghetti Records imprint which was being set up in conjunction with Polydor Records.

Although the excellent debut single for both Cicero and Spaghetti Records ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me’ failed to chart, it brought the young photogenic Scot to the attention of radio programmers and press. So when his PET SHOP BOYS produced second single ‘Love Is Everywhere’ was released in late 1991, traditionally a good time to break new acts due to the traditional New Year lull in the music business, it eventually reached No19 in the UK charts. The parent album ‘Future Boy’ was eventually released in Summer 1992.

In celebration of its 30th Anniversary, Cherry Red will be reissuing ‘Future Boy’ as a fully remastered 45-track 3CD deluxe expanded edition with an illustrated 24-page booklet featuring an introduction and track-by-track comments by David Cicero himself. As well as all the Cicero tracks released during his Spaghetti period, there are also ‘Ciceroddities!’ in previously unreleased songs such as ‘Pretend’ and live tracks from a one-off concert at London Heaven opening for PET SHOP BOYS at an after party for the premiere of the 1991 Derek Jarman film ‘Edward II’.

The limited edition white vinyl LP edition of ‘Future Boy’ comes with a bonus DVD ‘Cicerovision!’ and includes all the official promotional videos, his 1992 Electronic Press Kit with contributions from Neil Tennant and live footage of the 1991 Heaven gig.

The melancholic but hopeful pop sound captured on ‘Future Boy’ was a reaction to Scottish radio which had local bands RUNRIG, HIPSWAY, DEACON BLUE and TEXAS on constant rotation. With the international success of PET SHOP BOYS, Cicero had seen an opening for electronic music influenced by acid house and techno but in a more mainstream way.

The London recording sessions were happy ones with Chris Lowe playing the joker while Neil Tennant would hold court, offering his critique on successful artists who he believed were not deserving. “I was loving every moment of it and thought it was amazing” Cicero told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2019, “looking back now it all seems like a dream.”

With his Italian name and the song’s Italian dance flavour, ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me’ ticked all of PET SHOP BOYS boxes as they prepared their first release on Spaghetti, but they opted to produce the second single ‘Love Is Everywhere’. Combining THE PROCLAIMERS with PET SHOP BOYS and OMD while throwing in bagpipes and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo for good measure, it was a bizarre but glorious sound that emerged from the radio just as 1992 began. A Scottish anthem that just worked, Cicero became a pop pin-up with a ‘Smash Hits’ front cover and numerous TV appearances including ‘Top Of The Pops’.

With “Cicero In Da House”, the excellent ‘That Loving Feeling’ also produced by PET SHOP BOYS was the third single prior to launching ‘Future Boy’ but stocking issues at parent label Polydor stalled momentum despite the video being shown pre-release on ITV’s ‘The Chart Show’; Cicero just missed the Top 40 at No46.

Aside from the three singles, ‘Future Boy’ included a number of equally worthy tracks. Cicero’s own personal favourite ‘Then’ was slated to be the fourth single but was shelved in favour of a PET SHOP BOYS remix of ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You Back To Me’. Meanwhile mixed by Tennant and Lowe with Pete Schwier, ‘My Middle Class Life’ was a stark observation on the abuse of class hierachy that had an air of VISAGE in the chorus.

Both recalling NEW ORDER, ‘Sonic Malfunction’ and ‘Cloud 9’ were two catchy instrumentals that revealed Cicero’s affinity with club culture, but with the collapse of The Iron Curtain, he offered something much darker in ‘The Butcher Of Bucharest’ about the Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu.

At the time a standalone single taken from the PET SHOP BOYS directed soundtrack to the movie ‘The Crying Game’ released in Autumn 1992 but very much a postscript to the ‘Future Boy’ story, ‘Live For Today’ displayed a more orchestrated feel with a superb gospel-tinged vocal from Sylvia Mason-James. Providing a “what if?” scenario as to a possible second album direction, Cicero however dropped out of the pop music industry for personal reasons. Although he would continue to release singles and record instrumental albums under the name THE EVENT, a second Cicero album ‘Today’ would not finally appear until 2021… but that’s another story.

‘Future Boy’ was a promising debut long player and contained a number of outstanding tracks which were enhanced by the involvement of PET SHOP BOYS during their imperial phase. But while that promise was not ultimately fulfilled back then, that Cicero is still making great pop music such as the poignant ‘Hold On To The Memories’ in 2022 shows that the talent really was there and never left him.

For the 30th Anniversary edition of ‘Future Boy’, a previously unreleased song intended for the album ‘Pretend’ has been included into the main tracklisting. There is also an early version of ‘Wish’, a song which he later re-recorded and subsequently appeared on ‘Today’. Among the bonus material, Cicero revisits ‘Love Is Everywhere’ for 2023 while there are also newly commissioned remixes of the track by the likes of SOFTWAVE and SHELTER.

Reflecting on criticism that said ‘Future Boy’ was just another PET SHOP BOYS side-project, David Cicero surmised: “I was their prodigy, they found me and I found them, it’s all about fate. I may have made it without the lads, but having them help me and to be part of it was something I would never change”.

‘Future Boy’ 30th Anniversary Edition with ‘Ciceroddities!’ is released as a 3CD deluxe set via Cherry Red Records on 29 September 2023, pre-order via

The white vinyl LP features a bonus DVD insert ‘Cicerovision!’ and can be pre-ordered at

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Eric Watson
18 September 2023

Lost Albums: DENIS & DENIS Čuvaj Se

In what was then Yugoslavia, cult synth duo DENIS & DENIS formed when vivacious vocalist Marina Perazić met synth player Davor Tolja in the Croatian port city of Rijeka in 1982.

Out of all the communist states during The Cold War, Yugoslavia was the most liberal with its citizens entering Jeux Sans Frontiers and Miss World including the 1983 contestant Bernada Marovt who had controversially appeared in nude photo sessions! Meanwhile as with today, the beautiful Adriatic coastline was a desirable holiday destination for Western Europeans.

The more open environment under the rule of Marshal Tito allowed the duo to hear the classic synthpop emerging from the UK such as YAZOO and EURYTHMICS, both of whom DENIS & DENIS were compared to, thanks to Tolja’s high production values and Perazić’s deep enigmatic voice which was laced with that Eastern Bloc allure.

Thanks to good quality demos being sent to the major radio stations of Yugoslavia and assorted live gigs, there was a domestic media buzz about DENIS & DENIS by the middle of 1983. Meaning “Take Care!”, the ‘Čuvaj Se!’ album was released on the state record label Jugoton in 1984.

The opening title song was suitably lively and accessible. It was up there with some of the best electronic music from Western Europe, with an appeal for those with English language ears like Scandinavian or Gallic pop. Telling the story of a lonely woman in an endless search for comfort, Perazić’s vocals were alluringly contralto while the combination of Linn Drum rhythms and percolating sequences came over like a less frantic YAZOO meeting the DEPECHE MODE-connected French synthpop trio VIENNA.

Maintaining the standard in an exploration of mundane daily routines, ‘Dvadeset I Osam Minuta Do Pet’ (“28 Minutes To Five”) was frantic synthpop laced with incessant sequencers as some wonderfully staccato vocal phrasing manifested itself by necessity to keep up with the pace. Meanwhile the catchy ‘Ti I Ja’ (“You and Me”) grabbed an Italo-styled resonance with a rugged machine hook and a Vince Clarke aping middle eight section.

Considered their best known song, ‘Program Tvog Kompjutera’ (“Your Computer Programme”) was like a sister song to ‘Dvadeset I Osam Minuta Do Pet’, but with Davor Tolja providing a vocal turn as well; the end result came over not unlike the 21st CENTURY YAZOO-influenced Swedish duo ALISON, especially in the chorus.

Another duet based around the passing of time, ‘Tek Je Sedam Sati’ (“It’s Just About 7”) was more directly YAZOO in arrangement with a distinctly Europop chorus amongst a backdrop of bleeps and solid metronomic rhythms. Also a duet, ‘Telefon’ drove into middle of the road territory as possibly the most conventional song on the album; despite the synths and drum machines, it was far less quirky in its emotive desire for reconciliation.

An enigmatic midtempo set piece about a relationship, Tolja took the lead vocal on ‘Sačuvaj Nešto’ (“Keep Something”), but with solid bass sequencing and squawking tremeloed guitar, ‘Doba Noćnih Kiša’ (“Rainy Nights”) stuttered into some bleeping autumnal electro-funk. To close and possibly shaped by the surrounding spectre of The Cold War, paranoia was the theme of the closing number ‘Dio Refrena’ (“Part Of The Refrain”), an atmospheric building synth ballad with spacey textures that ended the album on a more pessimistic note.

The release of ‘Čuvaj Se!’ led to several appearances on Yugoslavian national television while there was an ‘Album Of The Year’ award in the domestic music magazine ‘Rock’. But despite the acclaim, as with a number of acts in the West, things were never the same again and the magic was never to be repeated. The second album ‘Ja Sam Lažljiva’ (“I Am A Liar”) issued in 1985 was not so much an album, but a 5 track EP with bonus alternate versions. Stylistically, things became more confused, indicating conflicts between the pair in musical direction.

‘Soba 23’ (“Room 23”) took its lead from Howard Jones’ ‘What Is Love?’ while working the other way round, the guitar-driven ballad ‘Voli Me Još Ovu Noć’ (“Love Me More Tonight”) is said to have been the inspiration for the 1999 Ricky Martin song ‘She’s All I Ever Had’. Much jauntier than their previous material, the ‘Ja Sam Lažljiva’ title track grabbed a pseudo Caribbean feel, no doubt following the lead of CULTURE CLUB with timbale rolls thrown in for good measure. But it was the antithesis of the moodier introspection of ‘Noć’ (“Night”) which had more of a spiritual connection with their earlier material.

After the bland final non-album single ‘Oaze Snova’ (“Oases of Dreams”) in 1986, Perazić left to embark on a solo career. Tolja recruited Edi Kraljić who had provided backing vocals on ‘Čuvaj Se’ to front a rebooted DENIS & DENIS. However, not only did the all-male line-up change the visual dynamic but the ‘Budi Tu’ album in 1988 was more rock oriented, away from the synthy sound that had made DENIS & DENIS so appealing in the first place.

There were farewell reunion concerts with Perazić and Tolja in 2012 while in 2013, the instrumentalist relaunched the DENIS & DENIS name with a new female frontwoman Ruby Kolić and a new album ‘Restart’; but it didn’t and nothing could recapture poise or the glory days of the Marina Perazić fronted period and its playful charm.

Along with much of the best European synthpop from four decades ago, ‘Čuvaj Se’ has aged well and lasted the distance, sounding fresh and vibrant even now. The joys of DENIS & DENIS and this album in particular deserve to be discovered by the many ears worldwide that would have been unable to experience the duo back in their creative heyday.

All the tracks from ‘Čuvaj Se’ appear on ‘The Best Of Collection’ released by Croatia Records, available via the usual online platforms

Text by Chi Ming Lai
15th December 2022

Lost Albums: CELLULOIDE Naive Heart

CELLULOIDE are the enigmatic synth trio from Marseille who have been a cult favourite with discerning electronic music enthusiasts since their formation in 2000.

Adopting mysterious pseudonyms, they are fronted by the feminine stereo vocal presence of Darkleti while on the left is Member U-0176 and to his right is the more conventionally named Patryck Holdwem. CELLULOIDE’s reputation was built in their Synthélabo via ‘Naive Heart’, their debut long player issued in 2002; it is now remastered and reissued for 2022 by French indie label BOREDOMproduct.

While CELLUIODE are now veterans of seven albums, it seems unusual to look back to see that their first body of work was lyrically lamenting the passage of time and fearing the future, as many young acts did back in the pioneering days of synth.

‘Naive Heart’ did as the album title suggested and there was an innocent bleepy charm about it that appealed with listeners who would have tired of grunge and indie but were buoyed by the promise of a new dawn, thanks to the new generation of song based electronic acts such as LADYTRON.

The catchy opening number ‘A Lie’ initiated CELLUIODE’s aural manifesto with buzzy percolating minimal synthpop and detached but wonderfully appealing European Female vocals.

‘Someone Like Me’ upped the tempo and the iciness and as octave shifting moods and primitive rhythm boxes provided the backbone, the dispassion conveyed proved to be incongruously emotive.

Ramping up the mood with a harder drive verging on Goth Italo, ‘Pretty Girl’ could be mistaken for an EMMON track today although the more nostalgic ‘Wounds Of Love’ made the most of a throbbing engine room as a string machine cut through, effectively enhanced by responsive Gore-like backing vocals by the male contingent of the trio.

The cold wave of ‘Blessed Charms’ proved to be wonderfully mechanical and simplistic thanks to its hypnotic bleeping motif while ‘Sixth Sense’ was an infectiously eerie concoction based around absorbing synth bass and strings… and yes, Bruce Willis was a ghost all along!! 👻

‘Seven & Forever’ made interesting use of a cooker alarm within its backing and as the Clarkean ‘Missing Words’ displayed crossover potential despite its Sci-Fi synthetic texturing, ‘In Contempt Of Common Sense’ partied like it was 1980 and went into Gallic FAD GADGET mode with a distorted male lead.

Rumbling on the triplets, ‘The Reed’ took on a more dramatic darkwave approach but the girly vocals maintained the wider sonic spectrum while ‘The Paradox Of The Mirror Girl’ came over like CLIENT and eerily would have been birthed around the same time as Client A and Client B were working on their debut. To close, ‘It Needed An End’ provided just that in its nonchalant resignation.

One of the joys of today’s more open online market for music consumption is the opportunity to hear lesser known works as new several decades on.

Having been an album originally released before social media was ever a thing, CELLULOIDE’s ‘Naive Heart’ is one of those records deservedly reset for discovery by an electronic pop audience that the internet already has in place.

‘Naive Heart’ has been reissued as a remastered vinyl LP, CD and download by BOREDOMproduct, available via

Text by Chi Ming Lai
10th November 2022

Lost Albums: STACEY Q Better Than Heaven

Born Stacey Lynn Swain, Stacey Q is the Californian songstress best known for the 1986 international hit single ‘Two Of Hearts’.

However Stacey Q did not export to Britain in great numbers and ‘Two Of Hearts’ only reached No87 in the UK chart. But the single was a Top10 in West Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland and Canada. Meanwhile its parent album ‘Better Than Heaven’ was certified gold in the USA but thanks to it gaining cult status in the UK over the decades, it is now reissued by Cherry Red Records as a deluxe 2CD set featuring the period’s 12” mixes and assorted single edits.

Stacey Lynn Swain studied ballet and performed as a showgirl, but she found herself a job on a Los Angeles radio station making introductions and announcements while impersonating members of THE GO-GO’S. In 1981, Swain was introduced to Jon St James of Casbah Recording Studio and Dan Van Patten who had produced BERLIN and their ‘Pleasure Victim’ mini-album. The pair had been developing a KRAFTWERK and M influenced project called Q named after the James Bond character. While working as assistant producer on the Q EP, Swain was asked to contribute vocals to the song ‘Sushi’. In promotion, the threesome identified themselves as Jon Q, Dan Q and Stacey Q.

Q were only a moderate success but St James and Swain continued working on songs and the project morphed into SSQ with the inclusion of drummer Karl Moet and synth player Rich West. In 1983, the album ‘Playback’ was released and featured the catchy BERLIN meets MISSING PERSONS single ‘Synthicide’.

Jon St James was convinced he had a star on his hands so using Stacey Q as her solo moniker, Stacey Lynn Swain released her first single ‘Shy Girl’ and a self-titled cassette EP in 1985. The latter featured ‘Two Of Hearts’, a song written by John Mitchell which was brought in by St James via his studio network. The EP attracted interest from several labels so St. James brokered a multi-album deal with Atlantic Records.

Recorded in three weeks, the ‘Better Than Heaven’ album also featured SSQ members Moet and West as backing musicians and songwriters, although main compositional duties remained with St. James. Opening with ‘Two Of Hearts’, it remains a classic Eurocentric dance tune, more rigid than Madonna and played quite straight compared to Cyndi Lauper, but nevertheless, its appeal has stood the test of time. As a feistier sister song, ‘We Connect’ raised the BPM stakes slightly but it was an enjoyable variation on the theme with more percussive interplay.

Despite an octave shift blow-out, ‘Insecurity’ allowed space for a spirited vocal like a HI-NRG Belinda Carlisle with minimal but juicy hooks. Meanwhile with the wonderfully pretty and metronomic ‘Better Then Heaven’ title track, it wasn’t difficult to imagine it on the soundtrack of a John Hughes movie.

However with its harp samples, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ took things midtempo in the album’s nearest thing to a ballad, although the overblown synth toms that were ubiquitous back in the day sound obtrusive today. With a fantastic range of keys and synths, ‘Music Out Of Bounds’ took a leaf out of the Jam & Lewis production manual and its delivery was sumptuous in its electro funky homage to Cherelle, the singer who did the original version of ‘I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On’.

Going clap and cowbell crazy, the Latin-tinged ‘Love Or Desire’ was a true HI-NRG romp driven by some boisterous triplets. Meanwhile with a wispy innocence and some cute voice sample hooks, ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ grooved in a soulful manner that was a clearly an influence on dreamier modern day exponents such as Sally Shapiro.

With a strident synthbass squelch, ‘He Doesn’t Understand’ placed string pads and a cacophony of vocal stabs into a hypnotic cocoon for a punchy dance pop excursion that remains clearly in the root of Norwegian songstress Annie’s style although the track’s closing fade remains a little strange.

Sounding like a Moroder production for BERLIN thanks to its crashing LinnDrum, ‘Dancing Nowhere’ closed the album with orchestral stabs, deck scratching and a guitar solo around a fierce backbone while confirming its spiritual connection with Terri Nunn and John Crawford’s combo in its male vocal harmonises.

The second Stacey Q album ‘Hard Machine’ was released in 1988 while the final Atlantic era long player ‘Nights Like This’ came the year after. Although singles such as ‘Don’t Make A Fool Of Yourself’ and ‘Give You All My Love’ maintained her profile in the clubs, album sales were down compared with ‘Better Than Heaven’.

Swain returned as Stacey Q in 1997 with the ‘Boomerang’ album and followed it up 3 years later with ‘Color Me Cinnamon’.

More recently, SSQ made a surprise return in 2020 with a new album entitled ‘Jet Town Je T’aime’ while Stacey Q still performs on the North American nostalgia circuit alongside the likes of MISSING PERSONS, ANIMOTION, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, WANG CHUNG, NAKED EYES, MEN WITHOUT HATS, TRANS-X and THE FLIRTS.

Achieving longevity, ‘Two Of Hearts’ itself was featured in the 2003 Macaulay Culkin and Seth Green electroclash movie ‘Party Monster’ alongside ABC and LADYTRON while it was covered by Annie in 2008 in a squelchy electro production by Richard X. Stacey Q may have begun as ‘Shy Girl’ but with its fair number of tunes as good as ‘Two Of Hearts’, ‘Better Than Heaven’ is a reminder how fun and carefree pop music once was and should still be. This remains a collection of wonderfully innocent escapism.

‘Better Than Heaven’ is released by Cherry Red Records as a 2CD set on 16th September 2022, pre-order from

Text by Chi Ming Lai
15th September 2022

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