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Bronski Beat: The Age of Consent

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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.”

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    when this came out WBCN in boston thought that Bronski Beat was the next big thing.

    Why? was the song of the week.

    then they kinda disappeared.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    …now that i think of it, they said the same thing about Frankie Goes To Hollywood

  • http://www.redmoonrising.net jonnie vi

    hey, despite the agenda, this is one of few 80s techno-dance bands that actually had something to say… as much as i love and miss 80s rock from Poison and Stryper to Echo and the Bunnymen and Roxy Music, Bronski Beat’s debut album made you think about things while you were shaking your ass.

    can someone tell us what the hell became of Larry, Steve, John, John, and Jimmy?

  • Eric Olsen

    I agree – it’s a great album and holds up better than most techno-pop. Sommerville left to form the Communards, then solo stuff mostly in Europe. BB kept on without him for a time with some success (“Hit That Perfect Beat”) but wasn’t the same. haven’t heard much lately.

  • Abdifatah Sotef

    These queers are one-hit-wonders, nothing more nothing less. Smalltown Boy is the only thing worth remembering. Not coz of the message of the song – only 2 verses, what da fuck is up with dat? – but coz of the beats.
    June 1984 was their brief hey-day. Dead and buried since.

  • Eric Olsen

    I disagree: this whole album is quite excelent and has held up very well over time. I find the themes to be generally universal rather than just “gay oriented.” And beyond this album, “Hit That Perfect Beat” is a classic dance number.

  • John jon

    H.T.P.B was my first ever song i wrote with BB.The album i wrote with Larry and Steve was a mishmash of to much to soon,letting them-self’s whollow in their fame and fortune.Was happy to help the boy’s out when Jimmy left but i am me and he is who he is,a great singer.As for myself im living very happerly still singing and spending my royalty’s thank you…..

  • Gareth M Scott

    If you are really John Jon from the band then this site has delivered a major coup in getting you to comment……

  • Steve

    Yeah, this album was one of the few ‘serious’ dance albums of the day, hence it did far better than most dance albums do. The 2002 compilation “The Essentials” on the Rhino label has a decent 12 track overview of both Bronski Beat (5 tunes), Communards (4 tunes) and Jimmy Somerville solo stuff (3 tunes). Although Bronski’s 2 or 3 hits after Somerville (including “Hit That Perfect Beat”) are not included.