Review: “Alphabet City” by ABC (Vinyl, 1987)

Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is Alphabet City, the 1987 fourth album from British pop group, ABC. Will this album be an easy listen, or will it seem like a completely different language? Read on…

ABC - Alphabet City (1987) album
ABC – Alphabet City (1987) album

This 11 track LP rightly opens with a gentle sound of traffic which leads into When Smokey Sings. This song is filled with some wonderfully sounding nods to the sound of the song’s namesake Smokey Robinson. The track was a #11 hit in the UK singles chart when released as the album’s lead single. The track is confident and slick, packed with a catchy-as-hell chorus thanks to the saxophones, and Martin Fry’s unmistakeable vocals. There’s even an appearance from Mr Obligatory 80’s Saxophone as the track heads to the finale, and it is well placed in this musical feast.

The Night You Murdered Love follows this, and the guys are injecting some of that drama that you can expect to find on their earlier album The Lexicon Of Love (1982). There’s some great synths and beats here, and there’s even some guitar work that reminds me a bit of Chic. It’s a really nice song, but not as catchy as the previous track. This was the album’s second single but stalled at #31 in the UK.

Next up is Think Again, and this track almost teases disco with a few little string flurries, but over all it’s a far more mellow track with layered strings. The track is sadly not as catchy or remarkable as the preceding two, and feels a bit flat.

That’s followed by Rage And The Regret, which vocally sounds like an unknown Erasure song at the start. A bass synth drops in alongside the beats, but there’s a few odd lyrics ‘build a temple from your fragrance’ being the oddest moment. To its credit, the vocals do leap around, showing Martin Fry’s vocal range perfectly.

The side closes with Ark Angel, a track that fades gently in before electric guitars roar on in, carried along by a bass and a simple beat. The track chugs along well, bringing this first side to a nice ending.

Side Two opens with third and final single King Without A Crown which stumbled at #44 in the UK. This is a mid-tempo track that is fairly simple. It builds up really well, and that is aided by some really lovely backing vocals from (amongst others) 80’s backing vocal stalwarts, Tessa Niles and Miriam Stockley.

Bad Blood follows this, opening with a flurry of strings that also ushers in the first of two appearances of the handiwork of Anne Dudley. It’s also great to hear the double bass, and together with the strings it really shines. The vocals are a bit dull – like a sleepy Simply Red album track, but musically it sounds nice.

Penultimate track Jealous Lover returns us to those more familiar dramatic sounding vocal styles, and the tempo is back up. The result is a track that is catchy, and we’re treated once again to some perfectly placed backing vocals that help to contrast Martin’s voice wonderfully.

The album closes with One Day, with Anne Dudley returning on strings duties. The track opens with a plodding bass synth and Mr Obligatory 80’s Saxophone. The string sweeps really are a treat amongst the 80’s synths, and the song builds nicely. Martin gets to show off some impressive vocal gymnastics, hitting some very high notes almost effortlessly. This is a great ending to the album, finished off with a final sound of traffic from Alphabet City.

ABC’s lead single ‘When Smokey Sings’ (1987).


Over all, this album is pretty strong. There is no denying that Martin Fry’s vocals are distinct as ever, and set alongside the talents of Mark White they make a thoroughly competent duo.

When Smokey Sings, The Night You Murdered Love, and Jealous Lover, are the high points here, and it’s a shame that the second single didn’t repeat the success of the lead track. There’s obviously some low points, and the main one is Think Again, which aptly should have been thought again. It’s just a bit lack lustre.

Still, the album is a great slice of mid-late 80’s pop, and anyone who enjoyed their 1982 masterpiece of an album will find enough here to continue enjoying ABC.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 4 / 5
  • 1987 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #7, certified Gold by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £2.48 from a seller.

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