1986, Music

Different Light (1986) by The Bangles

I was moderately pleasantly surprised by the debut, having associated this group band mostly with “Walk Like an Egyptian” (on this record) and “Eternal Flame” (not on this record). But whatever surprise I got from the debut has disappeared this time around.

There was this thing in the ’80s – and probably in other eras, too – where labels would pressure successful groups who wrote their own material to record songs by professional songwriters to have bigger hits. And the groups would give in and the songs would sometimes be hits, even their biggest hits. It happened to Heart, it happened to Simple Minds, it happened to numerous other groups. And here, it seems to have happened to the Bangles: the two biggest songs were not written by them. Fortunately one of them was written by Prince – noted excellent songwriter – and the Bangles adapt it to their sound, so it only sort of sounds like “jangle Prince.” But the other one, their gimmicky big hit, doesn’t fit on the record and is as stupid as you remember it being.

The rest of the record is not as catchy as those two big hits, of course, but is, um, fine I guess? The material isn’t amazing but it’s also perfectly fine. (I feel like there were more catchier originals on their debut but I don’t remember.)

The problem, rather, is that it feels like the Bangles have moved from their somewhat distinct paisley underground/jangle pop thing to indistinguishable mainstream pop rock. There are no identifying features to their sound to my ears – it’s just bunch of a generic ’80s pop rock songs. There’s nothing in the performances for me to grab hold of.

I will say the production is nowhere near as bad as the average mid ’80s album and that is something. That is a redeeming feature.

But, otherwise, there’s nothing here to really recommend the album. If you like “Walk Like an Egyptian” for some reason, well the rest of the album isn’t so gimmick (or as catchy). And if you don’t, well there’s less of what made them appealing on their debut. It’s just very, very meh.

6/10

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