My introduction to ABC was not the dapper Chic-meets-punk sophistication of The Lexicon of Love. No, it was the cartoon-y Chic-meets-DX7 trash of How to be a Zillionaire!
I bet if the order were reversed, I would find How to be a Zillionaire! thin, vapid and grudgingly appealing. As it stands, I still like Zillionaire!, but I question how I could have gone so long without knowing the wonder that is The Lexicon of Love.
It’s tough not to compare ABC with another band influenced by disco and punk — Duran Duran. Where the latter skewed its formula closer to the rock side, the former went for something more glamorous.
Between the lush strings, disco beats and funk guitars, The Lexicon of Love screams "fashion." Producer Trevor Horn’s imprint can be heard all over the album — a few more guitars and some gayer content, and The Lexicon of Love could have morphed into Welcome to the Pleasuredome.
Martin Fry was a master of the clever quip. His vitriolic break-up songs cut the acidity with a sly rhyme. Sure, there’s that brilliant match of "you did" with "stupid" on the career-making single "Poison Arrow", but he does one better on the next track, "Many Happy Returns".
"Like the phoenix rising up from its ashes," Fry sings. "I know what’s good, but I know what trash is." Pretty simple, till he uses the second verse to parallel the first. "Like the world spinning around on its axis / I know democracy, but I know what’s fascist"
It may not be Stephen Sondheim, but pop songs don’t usually rhyme "trash is" with "fascist".
The Lexicon of Love is thankfully blessed by a set of solid tunes, tightly constructed to make the album feel more conceptual. Horn’s glossy production could fool listeners into thinking not much lay below the surface of all that glitter, but Fry’s croon and the band’s performances give the album some punch.
I wish I discovered it sooner.