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The Motels

All Four One/Little Robbers

(BGO; US: 12 May 2009; UK: 4 May 2009)

The Motels merit more than a slew of compilations of its tenure on Capitol. Led by the charismatic Martha Davis, the L.A.-based band infused the new wave pop-rock of the early ‘80s with a personality that translated to relatively filler-less albums. All Four One (1982) and Little Robbers (1983) proved that the band’s appeal exceeded even that of its highest-charted hits, “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer”. Back to back, these albums mark a rewarding introduction to a more in-depth look of the Motels’ catalog than any single-disc collection can capture.


BGO groups together All Four One and Little Robbers for an irresistible one-two punch of the Motels at its commercial peak. With fascinating liner notes by David Wells, the set is an excellent primer on why Davis’ voice (and face) was ubiquitous on MTV, radio, and in record stores during 1982-1984.


Aside from the radio staples, which also include the underrated “Remember the Nights” and the torch-song-via-power-pop of “Take the L”, the deep cuts on both releases are ideal for repeat listening. Owing as much to Val Garay’s masterful production as the expressive singing and songwriting of Davis, “Where Do We Go from Here” remains a rousing, thundering album opener on Little Robbers while “Apocalyso”  adds flair to the cinematic qualities of All Four One. For those who want to discover some hidden gems among the more familiar terrain of ‘80s pop-rock, track down the BGO set. Despite the label’s questionable remastering methodology (the volume needs to be pumped for a dynamic listening experience), you’lll enjoy your extended stay with the Motels.

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Christian John Wikane is a NYC-based journalist and music essayist. He's a Contributing Editor for PopMatters, where he's interviewed artists ranging from Paul McCartney to Janelle Monae. For the past three years, he's penned liner notes for more than 100 CD re-issues by legends of R&B, rock, pop, dance, and jazz. Since 2008, he's produced and hosted Three of Hearts: A Benefit for The Family Center at Joe's Pub. He is the author of the five-part oral history Casablanca Records: Play It Again (PopMatters, 2009). Follow him on Twitter @CJWikaneNYC. 


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