Your extremely late post for the week of 10/15/2012…

“Nightmares” by A Flock of Seagulls

Fun though it may be to joke around about A Flock of Seagulls, I’ve come to appreciate them as a genuinely good band.  I now own their first two albums — one on CD and one on vinyl — and I must admit that I find much of their music very listenable and engaging.  One thing that has struck me is that for a group recognized as one of the key bands of synth-pop, the guitar plays an important and very noticeable role in the Flock’s sound.  This is especially true on their mostly pretty upbeat self-titled debut album, the one with “I Ran So Far Away” on it.  I think they became more electronics-centric as time went on, and Side 2 of their sophomore outing, 1983’s Listen, features some weirder, techno-type stuff.  But the bulk of the album finds the Flock in fine form, with a catchy hit single (“Wishing I Had a Photograph of You”), a warm ballad (“Transfer Affection”), an awesome, fast-paced account of extraterrestrial/paranormal activity (“It’s Not Me Talking”), and a clearly Joy Division-influenced song called “Nightmares.”

“Nightmares” lives up to its title.  From the start, the spacey, echoey production makes you feel uneasy and a bit paranoid.  During the verses, Paul Reynolds’ guitar part is creepy and sparse, generally leaving vocalist Mike Score alone with the bass and drums — contributing to the “open” feel that puts your stomach in knots for reasons you can’t explain.  Later on, the guitar sporadically joins the song fully, but it doesn’t put us at ease, instead contributing a brooding part to the dark, moody aura of a chorus in which Score literally calls upon his mother to assuage his fears.  (The importance of the lyrics here should not be underestimated; the protagonist of the song seems to be emotionally scarred or perhaps disturbed.)  The music makes us feel the fearful uneasiness of a nightmare-plagued night, and Score’s lyrics do a pretty good job of articulating the feeling into words as well.  And the weird sounds during the break actually don’t seem forced at all — they fit with the mood of the song, and not just the decade.