A Flock of Seagulls: Remixes & Rarities

This odds 'n' ends compendum from the underrated '80s band does exactly what it says on the box, for better or worse.

A Flock of Seagulls

Remixes & Rarities

Label: Cherry Pop
Release Date: 2017-03-31

In the 1980s, pop music was a lot more efficient than it is today. For example, during that decade A Flock of Seagulls came on the scene, released some era-defining singles, made an indelible impression on the culture, jumped the shark, and disbanded within the time it now takes between Depeche Mode albums.

Even at the time, the Liverpool quartet were seen as a bit strange at best and kitschy at worst. There was the self-titled debut in 1982, which, like its smash hit "I Ran", was centered around alien abduction. There was the name, daff but somehow fitting, which derived either from Richard Bach's new-agey Jonathan Livingston Seagull album or, more rock-respectable, from a Stranglers lyric. There was the clumsy, cut-rate artwork. There was the guitar player with the oversized Elizabeth Taylor shades and the singer who '80s-danced behind a synthesizer while he sang.

And there was that hair. Something of a paradox, it certainly garnered AFOS a lot of attention in its early days. Yet in becoming an iconic symbol (both sincere and sarcastic) of the '80s, it has defined the band's legacy at the expense of its music.

Of course, it hasn't helped that frontman Mike Score has spent the last three decades touring with a revolving cast of long-haired, would-be metalheads under the Flock of Seagulls name, doing the nostalgia/state fair/dive bar circuit, releasing precious little new music in the process.

In the '80s A Flock of Seagulls released three albums whose quality varied between respectable and really quite good. Several of the singles from those albums were excellent, and have since become classics. So a moderately-priced, two-disc compilation highlighting the band's glory days would sound like a great find. But it isn't exactly.

The truth is in the title. Remixes & Rarities collects nearly all the non-album material from the band's Jive Records days. Therefore, it gives you the essential hits, but mostly in inferior 7" edits. Then it gives you several other versions of those hits in various lengths, live cuts, alternate edits of b-sides, and then some really inessential stuff, such as an instrumental mix of "Who's That Girl", from their 1986 nadir.

Even so, there's enough to salvage a more-than-respectable impression of the band. The "longer" version of "I Ran" captures the band's underappreciated knack for dynamics as well as undeniable hooks. It still sounds like something out of another world. That impression is made even stronger by "Space Age Love Song", A Flock of Seagulls' true masterpiece. With its thundering effects, heartfelt lyrics, and Paul Reynolds' effects-drenched guitar runs in place of a chorus, it works up a swell of sound that is positively Spectorian; it's little surprise the legendary producer was himself a fan. Add in the earnest, surging, E-bow'd coda of "Wishing", especially in its nine-minute iteration, and it is safe to say A Flock of Seagulls inadvertently helped invent shoegaze. It is mind-blowing to think both songs made the US Top 40.

Remixes & Rarities has other delights to recommend it. The harrowing "Nightmares" ("Mama I keep having nightmares / Mama am I ill?") invokes Joy Division in its understated intensity. The live tracks show that the band were capable of reliably reproducing their outsized music with confidence. And b-sides like "The Last Flight of Yuri Gagarin" reveal a more abstract, experimental facet of the band. Though, how many people are truly interested in A Flock of Seagulls' more abstract, experimental side? One person's treasure is another person's detritus.

Cherry Pop went out of their way to track down the original masters, which is an indication that Remixes & Rarities is intended mainly for hardcore completists. A Flock of Seagulls' first three albums have already been reissued, and they are a much better place to get an accurate picture of this underrated band.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.