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Dead or Alive: Evolution: The Hits

Will Harris

Dead or Alive

Evolution: the Hits

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2003-06-24
UK Release Date: 2003-05-19

In an attempt to perform a pre-emptive strike of sorts, I'd like to begin this review by favoring you with a witticism often uttered by those who neither know nor care about music that exists beyond that of the so-called "hit singles" chosen for airplay by record labels and radio stations.

In the case of this particular album, it'd go a little something like this:

Excited Music Consumer: "Hey I just picked up Evolution, Dead or Alive's greatest hits!"

Know-Nothing Jackass: "Dead or Alive's greatest hits? What is it, a CD single? BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!!"

The end result of this arguably humorous quip on the excited music consumer will inevitably be one of the following three scenarios:

1) The poor bastard runs off, sobbing uncontrollably. (Thankfully, he'll find solace later while playing track eight of his new purchase, realizing that Dead or Alive frontman Pete Burns has indeed saved him all his kisses.)

2) The consumer mutters under his breath, "No, it's not a fucking CD single," and shuffles away.

3) The Know-Nothing Jackass receives a lecture from the Excited Music Consumer which opens with the above mutterance (though spoken with decidedly more force) and, before its completion, tackles the history of Dead or Alive, cites several of the band's songs which did quite acceptably on the charts, and ends with the assertion that the group is "still really big in Japan, so shut the fuck up."

Now, if you, the reader, have the sneaking suspicion that I, the writer, have played the part of the Excited Music Consumer once or twice in the past, you are correct. And if you also deduce that I'm the sort of fellow who tends toward scenario #3, then allow me to confirm that your instincts have served you well once again.

Thankfully, however, this isn't a conversation; this is just a CD review. In other words, there's no way that I, the aforementioned writer, could possibly know what you thought or didn't think when you saw that this was going to be a review of Evolution, a collection of Dead or Alive's hits.

But if you're currently thinking, "Hits? Plural . . . ?" You'd better keep reading, buddy; 'cause you've got a lecture comin', though I'll try to edit out the profanity.

Let's be honest: "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)," produced by Stock/Aitken/Waterman, is one of those incredibly perfect tunes where, even if everything else in the group's discography was complete and total crap, you could still build a greatest hits collection around it, just as long as you opened and closed the collection with the song so they get you coming and going.

It is, therefore, a highly unfortunate coincidence that Evolution begins and ends with versions of "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)". Come to think of it, there's also something decidedly unfortunate about the fact that the group's most instantly recognizable hit is already resulting in a generation asking, "What's a record?"

For a band who have about as much street cred in the USA as Kajagoogoo or Dexy's Midnight Runners, it's somewhat remarkable to find that Pete Burns started his musical career working with Julian Cope, went on to count Wayne Hussey (Sisters of Mercy/Mission UK) as a member of Dead or Alive, and used to be buddies with Morrissey.

As its subtitle suggests, Evolution does indeed contain all of Dead or Alive's hits . . . and, yes, smart-arse, they had more than just the one. Surely you've not forgotten "Brand New Lover". And though "Lover Come Back to Me" and "Something in My House" may not ring any bells, they took up brief residence in the lower reaches of the US charts.

In the UK, the band had a bit more success. The singles "Misty Circles", "What I Want", and "I'd Do Anything" made some ripples on the British club scene, but it took a very terrible cover of "That's The Way (I Like It)" (yes, by KC & the Sunshine Band) to score the group their first chart hit. In addition to their appearance on this hits collection, they can also be found on the band's debut album, Sophisticated Boom Boom; it's been suggested that Dear or Alive may have been the world's first synth-goth band, a theory not exactly dispelled by this material.

Other singles which never made the transition stateside but which rose through the ranks in the UK were "In Too Deep", "My Heart Goes Bang (Get Me To The Doctor)", (both from Youthquake), "Hooked on Love", and "I'll Save You All My Kisses" (both from Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know; all are thoughtfully included on Evolution.

Lest purists be concerned, Nude (the group's last album for Epic) is well represented here, as are Nukleopatra and Fragile; the latter is probably the greatest boon for fans of the band, as this is the first time its material has been released somewhere besides Japan. (Despite being decidedly less successful than its predecessors in the US and UK, Nude won the Japanese equivalent of the Grammy for Best Pop Album of 1989!) The material on Evolution that represents these albums show a band that's maintained a consistent sound throughout its career; there's a tendency for some of the songs to sound a bit too similar to each other at times, one almost blending into another, but, for good dance-pop fun, it's hard to beat.

To close this review, however, let us chat momentarily about the so-called "Metro 7" Edit" of "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" that closes Evolution; it's absolutely unnecessary, as are the additional 2003 remixes of classic tracks like "Lover Come Back (To Me)" and "Turn Around and Count 2 Ten."

You should've stuck with initial versions, Pete; they don't sound nearly as dated as you apparently think they do.

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