Happy Families (Deluxe Edition)
Thirty-five years late, respect due to the most underrated ’80s synth duo.
Falling between the stools of pop fun and brooding electro-experimentalism meant that – hit singles aside – Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe have been denied post-facto synth maven status. Yet Edsel’s comprehensive 3-CD muster of 1982’s Happy Families and associated tracks (Mange Tout, from ’84 and Believe You Me, from ’85 are also available) makes a strong case, with the Cabaret Voltaire centipede funk of Feel Me and Scott Walker suicide chanson of Waves and Cruel the darkling yang to the tabla-driven Living On The Ceiling’s surrealist pop yin. Demos on Disc 2 of Business Steps and Black Bell plus the original Sad Day from Stevo’s epochal Some Bizzare Album comp underline the pair’s cred credentials, harking back to the mangled bleakness of their pre-fame Irene & Mavis EP, a post-pop vibe that Arthur has revived in recent Blancmange releases. Still a terrible name, though. Danny Eccleston