Fry has recorded something equalling his all-time best.
Daryl Easlea 2008
Well I never. 11 years after their last album, Skyscraping, ABC return with a playlisted single on BBC’s Radio 2 (The Very First Time) and a confident 12 track album, Traffic, that frankly shouldn’t be as good as it is. That said, Martin Fry was always one step ahead of the new romantics with whom he’s erroneously associated. There was only a small club of turns from that period who genuinely delivered on album, and their 1982 debut, The Lexicon Of Love is, along with Dare by the Human League, up there as a bona fide classic of its day. Their special blend of Earth Wind & Fire, Chic and the Sex Pistols was served potently. The outfit’s desire to move on signed their commercial death-note, but for those who remained loyal, a cornucopia of pleasure beckoned.
Recording between Los Angeles and London, the album retains all the widescreen aspirations of the outfit. Reunited with drummer David Palmer, Fry has enlisted Palmer’s Rod Stewart band cohort Chuck Kentis as co-writer and producer. The three have crafted something that sounds just like an ABC record, full of swooning strings, big beats and Fry’s lyrical puns and conceits. Sixteen Seconds To Choose opens the album in grandiose ABC style, (“you’re hanging around for your standing ovation, plugging your crap at the radio station”), before we hear the out and out irresistibility of The Very First Time, a tune that sounds like a relative of 1985’s Be Near Me. Even when you think we’re off clutching at straws in search of a melody (Caroline, Validation) along comes a bespoke chorus to die for.
Whether the album gives Martin Fry a commercial renaissance is
another matter – but Traffic is an exceptionally credible record and in the track Love Is Strong, Fry has recorded something equalling his all-time best.