Original Propaganda vocalists return with legendary producer to gift us an album that only gets better with every listen.
Release Date: 20 May 2022
Formats: CD / 2CD / Vinyl / Download
Almost forty years ago, the public was gifted one of the finest albums of the 80s – arguably one of the finest electronic albums ever released. A bold claim perhaps but, A Secret Wish by Propaganda was way way ahead of its time. Fronted by vocalists Susanne Freytag and Claudia Brücken with Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens they provided some of the boldest and most exciting music around, pushing boundaries firstly with Dr Mabuse (which included departed band member Andreas Thein) then with Duel/Jewel which gave them their highest chart single.
Sadly for Propaganda, label mates Frankie Goes To Hollywood hand exploded into British pop culture and seemed to take the shine away from their inevitable glory. In 1986, the band split. New record deals and new line-ups briefly followed but despite continuing to employ the services of legendary producer Stephen Lipson they never regained the promise that they originally tempted.
In 2018 Susanne Freytag and Claudia Brücken performed at several festivals across Europa under the name of Duel together with support slots for Heaven 17 in the UK as xPropaganda. It seemed inevitable that there would be more.
And, so there is. The Heart Is Strange sees the duo re-unite with Lipson who effectively becomes the third member of the group. The crypticness and humour of the artwork returns too in similar style to the Paul Morley driven examples of ZTT years gone by. On first listening, there seems to be a softening of the A Secret Wish sound but echoes remain as the tracks grow in maturity.
The album begins with The Night which has vague reflections of 1985’s Dream Within A Dream as occupies the same tracklisting – maybe a conscience attempt to offer a slight replication to their debut album? Perhaps, but it would be foolish of them not to try and appeal to fans of old who still hold A Secret Wish dear. Lead single, the jagged Don’t (You Mess With Me) is a powerhouse of a single wrapped into 3 minutes, near shouty vocals and a throbbing bass and percussion thread. It’s a grower if ever there was one.
There are potential singles in The Wolves Are Returning (a rocky pop affair with a thundering drive) and Only Human (a highly addictive electro anthem) too and album closer, the near ten minute Ribbons of Steel, is a delicate, echoing journey into the sunset with a haunting spoken vocal that creates calm and transcendence.
xPropaganda have made an album that not only gets better with every listen but is a collection of “sonically thrilling, boundary-pushing pop music.” A worthy addition to any fans of the band’s first incarnation and to anyone who hasn’t encountered them previously. The Heart Is Strange, indeed it is.