Another amazing 20-year anniversary, Bronski Beat’s The Age of Consent. Twenty years ago I was not having an easy time adjusting to the knowledge that a very close family member was gay. I was not particularly homophobic – my wife at the time worked in retail and had many gay friends with whom we spent a fair amount of time – but family was a different story.
The Age of Consent was so good and so human that it burrowed into my extreme self-absorption and forced me to empathize with “the other.” I listened to it the other day and not only has it held up remarkably well after twenty years, it has grown into one of the great records of the ’80s, without qualifiers.
Bronski Beat’s (Jimmy Somerville – vocals, Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek – keyboards) The Age Of Consent is an overtly political gay techno-pop manifesto that is never shrill, accusatory, or intentionally off-putting (okay, “Need A Man Blues” is pretty icky), but is instead warm, emotionally inclusive and musically spectacular.
Lyricist Jimmy Somerville emphasizes not the “otherness” of gays, but the emotional needs of all kinds of outcasts on the pulsing, dramatic “Smalltown Boy,” and on the hi-NRG dancefloor standard “Why?”
The trio switches gears for a smoky version of Gershwin’s subversive, beguiling “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and somehow avoids camp on a remake of Donna Summer’s disco classic “I Feel Love” (with Marc Almond). Mike Thorne’s production is supple yet tough, Bronski and Steinbachek’s synths burble and surge, and Somerville’s falsetto is a force of nature. The CD contains bonus remixes of “I Feel Love,” “Run from Love,” “Hard Rain” and “Heatwave.”