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Pop - Released March 15, 2019 | WM Germany


Pop - Released September 27, 1984 | WM UK

Alphaville's 1984 debut, Forever Young, deserves to be viewed as a classic synth pop album. There's no doubting that Germans are behind the crystalline Teutonic textures and massive beats that permeate the album, but vocalist Marian Gold's impressive ability to handle a Bryan Ferry croon and many impassioned high passages meant the album would have worldwide appeal. Indeed both "Big in Japan" and the touching, sad change-of-pace "Forever Young" raced up the charts in multiple continents. Borrowing inspiration from Roxy Music's detached theatricality and Kraftwerk's beats and rhythms, Gold and company hit upon a magic formula that produced here an album's worth of impossibly catchy tunes that could almost serve as pure definitions for the synth pop genre. The hits race straight for one's cranium and embed themselves upon impact. "Big in Japan" feels like a more serious cousin to Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok," as a slow-pounding beat spars with Gold's desperate voice. "Forever Young," a stark, epic song that would become essential for every post-1984 high school graduation, drips sadness and never fails to cause a listener to nostalgically reflect on life and loss. Outside of these hits, the remainder of the songs rarely falter, mixing emotion, theater, and of course electronics into a potent, addictive wave of synth euphoria. It's likely every fan could pick his own favorite of the other should-have-been-hits, but "Fallen Angel" deserves special mention. It begins with spooky, funny warbling and icy keyboards, and then explodes and transforms into a startling, romantic epiphany at the chorus. If its lyrics are a bit goofy or juvenile, it only adds to the heartfelt love the song expresses. Alphaville stick firmly to their synths and sequencers on Forever Young, but they keep things interesting by incorporating motifs from funk, Broadway, Brazilian jazz, and even hip-hop. Even when the band takes itself too seriously, the songs' catchy drive and consistently smart production cover any thematic holes. Forever Young is a technically perfect and emotionally compelling slice of 1980s electronic pop/rock music. It's also a wonderfully fun ride from start to finish. ~ Tim DiGravina

Pop - Released December 17, 1991 | Warner Bros.


Pop - Released May 23, 1986 | WM Germany

Alphaville's second album, produced for the most part by Peter Walsh, found the group creating something close to a concept record, in overall atmosphere and structure if not in specific storyline. That Alphaville wanted to aim high can be gauged from the credit list -- the three core members "composed" the album, while no less than 30 musicians and singers helped perform it. Certainly the opening track, "IAO," a brief a cappella piece with Gold backed by a heavenly children's choir, finds the group reaching just enough and getting away with it. While at the time Afternoons in Utopia got lost in a welter of mid-'80s Euro releases with airbrushing and bad synth playing galore, in retrospect it's actually a successful endeavour, perfectly evocative of a mainstream style long vanished while containing its own artistic worth. "Dance With Me" and "Red Rose" were the much more conventional singles which got released in America, the former benefiting from some great U2-inspired guitar and the latter a reasonably sassy pop number that's one of various chances for Gold to exercise his Bryan Ferry fascination. The true character of the album, though, appears on most of the other songs, such as the sweeping passion of "Fantastic Dream" (Yes goes synth-pop, only this time without Trevor Horn) and the gentle pace and sci-fi scenario of "Carol Masters." "Jerusalem," which was the final single from the album released in Germany, is the secret highlight, with a wonderful chorus and an inspiring, just epic enough atmosphere. Other winners include the sweetly sung title track, which musically sounds like Enya some years before her own big splash with Watermark, and the Pet Shop Boys-reminiscent "Universal Daddy." At points things are just bad yup-funk for wine bars, but a couple of misfires aside, Afternoons in Utopia holds up well. ~ Ned Raggett

Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Polydor - Island

Alphaville's 2010 comeback album sets the time at defiance, playing as if the last two decades never existed, but the band's return to its prime form is so flawless the record sounds almost timeless. Thirteen years since their last commercial studio album, they pick up where synth pop left off: midtempo beats impossible not to tap to, romantic and nervous keyboard textures that take that space ambience of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream and put it to work, and dramatic vocals with a weepy edge, like Erasure is still the hottest new thing in town. This is supposed to sound plastic, but it doesn't, the hooks are too good, the melodies too convincing, and the mood is pinned down perfectly, as if the band spent all the time since 1997's Salvation working full-time to polish their stuff (though, as Axl Rose demonstrated, that's not necessarily a good thing). Besides, good dance-pop music hasn't really changed much since Alphaville's heyday, and there's since been plenty of synth pop aficionados keeping the flame alive and making Catching Rays on Giant relevant, but even if the style had been buried and forgotten after "Forever Young," this record would still shine through simply on the strength of its songwriting. Only on slower songs does it show that the band is no bunch of bright-eyed youngsters anymore; there are plenty of ballads, and Alphaville come across tired on those. But they also sound content, as if after a hard day's good work, they have the right to rest on their laurels. Of European pop heroes of the ‘80s, only a-ha have so far showed such longevity and the ability to mature without losing their best qualities, but Catching Rays on Giant adds another group to that singular list. ~ Alexey Eremenko

Pop - Released May 24, 1994 | WM Germany


Pop - Released April 7, 2017 | Polydor - Island


Pop - Released April 4, 1989 | WM Germany

The Breathtaking Blue was a somewhat disappointing follow-up to Alphaville's early-1980s records Forever Young and Afternoons in Utopia. It lacked the shimmering standout quality of songs like "Big in Japan," "Forever Young" and "Afternoons in Utopia." The production, by Klaus Schulze and Alphaville, experiments with a somewhat richer instrumentation, adding strings, saxaphone, trumpet, double bass, electric and even acoustic guitars to Bernhard Lloyd's synthesizers. This strategy is met with mixed success. The lush production only serves to muddy "The Mysteries of Love," which might have been one of the album's better tracks had the songwriting been valued above the somewhat ostentatious arrangement. But the slinky bass and restrained sax ornamentation make the mildly jazzy "Heaven or Hell" one of the album's more interesting efforts. And "For a Million" is about as genuine as the band gets, thanks to the attractive minor-key melody and the surprising piano and acoustic guitar solos. But all things considered, Alpahville seems most in its element when sticking to simple synthesizer arrangements, as on the pretty "She Fades Away" and the clever "Middle of the Riddle" ("It's the middle of the riddle/It's not very serious/It's nothing but a big surprise/And the president's horse/is a rabbit of course/that is living in a big boy's mind"). Marian Gold's rich baritone vocals, with their classic Europop excesses, hold the record's diverging strands together. ~ Evan Cater

Pop - Released September 1, 1997 | WM Germany


Pop - Released July 10, 2009 | WM Germany


Spain - Released December 1, 1995 | Lollipop


Pop - Released November 3, 2009 | WM Spain