Edsel Records (label)
06 October 2014 (released)
12 September 2014
Forever set to feature in pop music quizzes about one hit wonders, Dream Academy's moment in the sun came in May 1985 when Life In A Northern Town reached number 15. Sounding like a mix between Prefab Sprout and Deacon Blue, the song came from nowhere as quickly as the band then seemed to disappear. Fascinating then, to discover that the band stayed together for three albums over five years, mixing with music aristocracy like David Gilmour, Lindsey Buckingham and Johnny Marr.
Despite such useful contacts - there was no repeat of that early success. So this two CD collection seems over the top to say the least. However the album proves an intriguing listen - hinting at what could have been, while at the same time pointing to why they could never repeat that one single's success. The title of the retrospective was what Life In A Northern Town was going to be called - until a timely intervention from Paul Simon, another of the high-flyers they encountered.
Formed in Southgate in the early eighties, the band were Nick Laird-Clowes, Kate St.John and Gilbert Gabriel - and even from the names you can tell this was a band from the arty side of town. That manifests itself across the 24 tracks here, that include five previously unreleased recordings and one new song. Apart from the obvious, other tracks that might be familiar to eighties enthusiasts are The Edge of Forever and a delicate cover of The Smiths' Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want as both featured in the classic move Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Of the unreleased material, Living In A War is an atmospheric Howard Jones-like track, featuring Gilmour on guitar and is a pleasing discovery all these years later. Interestingly, The Last Day Of The War has large hints of West End Girls about it, but was recorded a good year before that wast a hit. It showcases Laird-Clowes doing a Tennant style spoken vocal, which suits him better. Elsewhere, his voice sounds a little thin and is one of the main reasons the band were not more successful. Another is the lack of real tunes. There is an awful lot of clever construction - but it's a little art school clever and at that time they were competing against much more instant pop.
There will be a handful of Dream Academy fans cheering this release - and the creation of new song Sunrising - but there may also be a few others intrigued to discover a few lost gems from the decade that is given the hardest time.