THERE ARE two ways to look at seagulls. You could take the testimony of ancient mariners, who know more about the subject than you’d probably want to hear. They know seagulls as scavengers, harbor pigeons, who eat a lot of garbage, shit on your head deliberately and make a godawful noisy racket. Then there’s the Hollywood view of gulls, epitomized by that celluloid varnish Jonathan Livingston Seagull. This point of view presents the feathery little rats as sweet pets with humanlike thoughts and feelings and makes a big deal out of the fact that they can fly.
The question is, how does Flock Of Seagulls see itself? Do these boys recognize their kinship with the sea birds that snack on soggy french fries and beer can pop tops, or do they see themselves as gay fantasy characters, swooping and screeching through the sky?
Well, there are a few moments on Listen when cutesy sort of filigree seems to be an end in itself. There are other times when fantasy scenarios have to be taken into consideration because A Flock Of Seagulls sound, once in awhile, like nothing so much as the Moody Blues on a day when the rhythm ace got a little out of control. But I have a hunch that, overall, these birds are smart enough to glean the good bits off a garbage scow when they see one. After all, some of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest lights reached the top precisely because they understood the value of real trash as opposed to the deodorized kitty litter that passes for “Art” these days.
The evidence that these gulls can scrounge with the best of them is here, and in heaps. ‘Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)’ overlays more toe-tapping melodies than anything since the great Mike Oldfield/Vivian Stanshall collaboration Tubular Bells (the album that spawned a dialect?). Do I hear a bit of Surfaris guitar on ‘Nightmares’? If it weren’t for the New Romantic outfits you might even mistake the blue-eyed soul of ‘Transfer Affection’ for pub rock. And ‘The Traveller’ would not have been out of place on a Blues Magoos album.
Break out the stale bread! A Flock Of Seagulls are here to stay.
© John Swenson, Creem, September 1983