ABRACADABRA! ABC show up in London. Another banal crew of slight white boys clumsily revising their dance style for the sake of summer attention? A boorish confusion of fumbling f-f-f-f-funk, pseudo-soul, watery brass and self-defence?
To say it as it has to be said, ABC are successful, a crowning glory, the deliverers of bacon, a promise that’s been licked. The tale powers towards the twist. Today the Moonlight, tomorrow the light of the world. Let’s fall in love?
ABC were fashioning their joyous nightclub sex-pop before the funk blandwagon wheeled up a trendy action. They now find their exultant chant-dance selves categorised as a nouveau funk unit — but they are imaginative and infatuated enough to transcend the trend just as when Vice Versa they were a high energy extension of the electro-pop theme. Martin Fry, Mark White and Stephen Singleton were the unsatisfied Vice and they attacked the post-League synthesizer sensibility with lovely bitterness.
No one knows that Vice Versa shook up the misanthropic electro-pop harmlessness with sensational indignation because just as they were perfecting their spitfire art they disintegrated, peeved by the tonal, textural and dynamic limitations of the synthesizer.
Undimmed, and even more antagonised, they steamed off in pursuit of their free love action heaven, gathered up David Robinson and Mark Lickley, switched to real instruments, and it’s as ABC that their spirited, articulate and intolerant approach to rhythm music will be noticed and coveted. A for action, B for boil and C for cover up four fifths of your body. Let’s fall in love?
ABC make their music much the same way Vice Versa did: it’s based on the same premises: provocation, irreverence, a cruel streak of desperation, a snatch of narcissism, rampant mobility.
ABC have not been humbly influenced by the libertine Brown, the defiling Chance, the welcome War, the young American Bowie, the immodest Weather Report — they have been delivered. They don’t copy, they convert. Their defiant dance music achieves through its organisation and compulsion, directness and naughtiness, a timeless force. They come over loud, clear and decisive. They’ve taken their time to arrange the decent assault, they celebrate the folly of dance, they glorify mobility, they stand in favour of The Song.
A for attack, B for body, C for come and get it. When they let you. Let’s fall in love? Let’s go to bed.
© Paul Morley, New Musical Express, 16 May 1981