1984, Music

A Walk Across the Rooftops (1984) by Blue Nile

Many years ago, I learned that first impressions should be ignored and overcome as much as possible when it comes to music. There have been many days in my life I’ve been happy about doing that and today is one of them. Because my first impression of this record was not a good one, and perhaps a tad ridiculous.

What was that first impression? That Buchanan (the lead singer) loves Peter Gabriel way too much. That first impression is not entirely fair – sure, Buchanan, at times, sounds a little too similar to Gabriel as a singer but the music only occasionally sounds like Gabriel’s music – specifically his poppier stuff from the ’70s – and, for the most part, doesn’t resemble it at all. I’m glad I got over that. (I almost didn’t.)

The music is on the artier side of sophisti-pop, which is a good thing. Sometimes the slickest of sophisti-pop is just too damn much for me, but this music has at least the odd touch that doesn’t belong, particularly the prominent, and idiosyncratic use of synthesizers. The lyrics are decent enough and feel much more personal than the superficial stereotype of the genre would suggest.

The arrangements are relatively arty or weird for the genre, but I can’t decide whether this is just the (real or perceived) Peter Gabriel influence that is distorting my opinion. Buchanan sounds like Gabriel so I think the tendency is for me to look for more arty touches, though they definitely are here.

Though it’s a relatively slick record, there’s enough here – Buchanan’s unconventional voice, the willingness to use sounds that don’t sound “perfect” – to make the record sound dirtier than you might expect. That’s a huge plus for me in this genre.

Anyway, once I got over my “Holy Peter Gabriel, Batman” reaction of my first listen, I’ve actually come to quite like this and I’m not sure “sophisti-pop” really characterizes what is a pretty great ’80s art pop record.


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