Some might consider a fourth incarnation since 1982 a little excessive but, really, The Lexicon Of Love is a record that should be reissued every year?subtly remade and remodelled to chime ever more sweetly with the temper and timbre of the times. “The initial idea had been to make music like a factory would build a car,” ran the original sleevenotes, and by rights The Lexicon Of Love should now be a fully evolved design classic, like a fine-tuned Volkswagen or BMW.
Ironically, if pop revivals ran to timetable, the jerky punk-funk of recent years would be succeeded by a Nouvelle Vague of New Pop right about now. But while the ludic productions of Xenomania and Richard X hint at that direction, the opulent, Horn-rimmed ambition of Lexicon…?all slap bass, sax and semiotics?still feels a little beyond the pale, easier to admire than adore.
In part, it’s been a victim of its own success as a commercial blueprint. The pop transvaluation that Lexicon… inspired?a sleek neo-classicism of Brill Building, Bacharach, James Brown and Chic?was so inescapable by the mid-’80s that it can often feel like the official soundtrack to Thatcherism.
But listening to Lexicon…afresh, you hear a poise that was lost in the gold rush. For all its romantic ironies and cynicism (“I stuck a marriage proposal/In the waste disposal” sings the wry Fry on “4 Ever 2 Gether”), Lexicon…is really a grand love story, or at the very least an elaborate seduction. It’s the sound of a band?a generation? falling in love with the new stylistic and technological promise of ’80s pop: of marrying the crude and the cooked, Brecht and Broadway, the Fryed and the Horny.
This expanded edition allows you to track the full journey from the stentorian agit-funk of early demos and outtakes (and two previously unreleased tracks: “Surrender”, a horn-driven demo casting Fry as “gunboat diplomat, ready to attack”, and “Into The Valley Of The Heathen Go”, meta-metal buffoonery oddly anticipating The Darkness) through to B-side pseudo-classical overtures, lite-jazz meanderings and cabaret reworkings of “Poison Arrow”. The deliciously sighed “…maybe” right at the spoken heart of “The Look Of Love”may have lead straight to Spandau’s obnoxiously reverential “True”, but for a second, on the very precipice of the postmodern, ABC conjured a perfect balance.