Review: “Different Light” by The Bangles (Vinyl, 1986)

Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown is the 1986 second album Different Light by four-piece girl group, The Bangles. Does this album shine warm and bright, or has the bulb blown? Time to find out…

The Bangles - Different Light (1986) album
The Bangles – Different Light (1986) album

The album bursts open with lead single Manic Monday, which gave The Bangles huge success, after their previous two singles didn’t reach the top 70 in the UK. This track, which is credited as written by ‘Christopher‘ was actually one of the pseudonyms for Prince, who also performs on the track. The song flows effortlessly from verse to chorus, whilst the wall of guitars and vocal harmonies help to give it a light and catchy pop sound – just what the UK needed in the January of 1986. It rightly worked a treat, and gave them a #2 UK hit single.

That’s followed by titular track In A Different Light, and this roars open with electric guitars. The fast snares are reminiscent of Motown beats but at a faster pace. Vicki takes the lead here (accompanied by Susanna and Debbi). It’s tempo supports its catchiness, making it a great second track.

Next is Walking Down Your Street, and we have Susanna back on the mic here. There’s a really nice funky bass going on here and it’s a real foot tapping delight of a pop song. The vocal harmonies are lovely, showing off the perfect blend of the Bangles’ vocals. At times, I’m reminded of a harder Bananarama (vocally), but the reliance on guitars clearly pushes this safely into the Bangles’ net. The track was the album’s fourth single, and reached #16 in the UK.

Walk Like An Egyptian follows next, a song that I loved and once learnt how to play on my childhood Yamaha PSS-270 keyboard. This track is just as catchy as Manic Monday, but its slight novelty value (see video), and the whistling section, really helped to make stand right out. Inevitably, it helped to cement its place as a hit in the UK, where it reached #3 as the album’s third single.

That’s followed by Standing In The Hall, and now we’re shifting down the tempo. This song is more of a plodder, with Debbi on vocals. It still bounces along quite merrily, but it doesn’t quite have the same energy as the previous songs. It does come to a nice attention grabbing abrupt end.

Return Post follows that. There’s teasing guitars that jangle away, and we’re treated to a load more of those wonderful Bangles vocal harmonies that really are a treat, whilst Vicki takes the lead on this song. There’s a great break down of guitar, fingersnaps, and vocals towards the end. At times, this musically and lyrically reminds me of The Beautiful South.

Side Two opens with If She Knew What She Wants, which was the album’s second single. After the 80’s electric guitar opening, this track takes on a sound that reminds me of the 1960s, and with a upbeat tempo that makes it quite a cheerful song. The track is a cover of Jules Shear’s song from the previous year, with a minor re-write to the third person to suit the Bangles’ female group. There are again some wonderful vocals and harmonies here, and whilst I think it’s a nice little pop song. Whilst Jules’ version had been released the previous year, it didn’t chart in the UK. The Bangles’ version stumbled at #31 in the UK chart.

That’s followed by Let It Go (no, not that one). This track races along with guitars roaring. It has a really nice melody. Those harmonies are back as the entire group sing together on this one. There’s also a great little piano section in the middle too, making it a nice upbeat track.

September Gurls follows that with a guitar intro. This song reminds me somewhat of some of the more narrative songs from The Beatles, in a boys meets girls kind of way. Michael takes the mic on this song, and it’s a great little bop.

Next is Angels Don’t Fall In Love, and it’s a heavier song, with roaring guitars and racing drums from the intro onwards. Vicki has the mic, and she shows off her vocals perfectly, complimented by the rest of the group’s backing vocals. There’s a really nice guitar solo too.

Following is the penultimate track, and this has a kind of ethereal drifting sound to it. It’s slow, softer than anything we’ve heard so far, and has some great guitar work too. The vocals drift around a bit, aided by backing vocals, harmonies, and a synth. It’s a nice contrasting track, and it works! The track was released in the UK only, as the album’s fifth and final single. Sadly, it was perhaps a bit off-kilter with their other tracks, and flopped at #55. Had it have been released in the mid-late 90s, it probably would have been a hit.

The album closes with Not Like You, and we’ve got the tempo back up for an upbeat track with Debbi on the mic. There’s some wonderfully warm strummed guitars here, swapped briefly for electric guitars for a solo. The vocals and the pop feeling of the song reminds me a bit of ABBA, but it’s only fleetingly before the track draws to the end.

The Bangles’ hit lead single ‘Manic Monday’

Verdict

Over all, this album is a real feast of 1980’s guitar pop, and magnificent vocal harmonies.

The album is home to some of the most recognisable and iconic 1980’s hits – Manic Monday and Walk Like An Egyptian, and those two definitely shine here. The quirkiness of Walk Like An Egyptian undoubtedly brought that track success, and the magic hand of Prince (under one of his many nom-de-plumes) inevitably spun the group a much needed hit lead single. Those two greats are not alone, as In A Different Light is a brilliant song too. Sadly it wasn’t a single though.

There’s no real duff songs here, but there are some mediocre ones, noticeably Return Post, and Standing In The Hall, but there’s enough energy spread throughout the album to really make it a feast for the ears.

The Bangles sadly didn’t always hit the spot in the UK with their singles, but when they did, they did it properly, and thankfully this album followed suit. Definitely check it out!

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 4 / 5
  • 1985 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #3, certified Platinum by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £2.00 from a Mind store.

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