WL//WH Blast From Past: RATIONAL YOUTH “Dancing On The Berlin Wall”

Blast From Past Rational Youth

photo by Marc de Mouy

At the dusk of 2019, Universal Music Canada came to remind us of one of the most groundbreaking and edgy records from the ’80s. A deluxe expanded and remastered edition of seminal 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’ from Canadian new wave pioneers Rational Youth on both CD and double gatefold vinyl, out on December 6! At the dawn of the ’80s, Rational Youth couldn’t even imagine that ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’ which is included in the album would become one of the anthems of the era regarding 1989’s destruction of the Berlin Wall. The cult following for ‘Cold War Night Life’ has remained steady over the years, with many contemporary synth bands citing it as a seminal influence, including hugely popular artists like Italy’s Frozen Autumn, Sweden’s Covenant, Germany’s Psyche,  Australia’s Parallox, and so many more new bands and artists.

The band was part of the generation which was playing with new machines and new weapons. Synthesizers all over for the youth of the cold war era that was practicing on the new sound. Thus came electro-pop, synth-pop, minimal-wave, the electroclash, the New Wave Music which started spreading like a wildfire and nobody would remain intact.

“The most remarkable thing about making this album, from a historical perspective, was the fact that we were making an all-synthesizer pop album, and in Montreal in 1981-82 that was pretty new,” says Tracy Howe. “A lot of our arrangements and all the synth sounds were worked out at home and sequenced, so when we got to the studio we would set all the synths up and patch everything, tell the engineer to put machine in record and roll the tape, we’d start the MC-4 MicroComposer and half a song would instantly go to tape. The rock and roll engineers we had were kind of stunned by this, and by the fact that we were using a drum machine (a Roland TR-808).”

Rational Youth was formed in 1981 in Montreal, Quebec by Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn, both of whom idolized Kraftwerk. Considered one of Canada’s first synthpop groups, their second gig saw them opening for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. After releasing their first single ‘I Want To See The Light’ in 1981 for YUL Records, an independent label established by Marc de Mouy and Pat Deserio, Howe and Vorn were joined by Kevin Komoda. Following Vorn‘s departure in 1983, the group — now consisting of Howe (vocals, keyboards, guitars), Komoda (keyboards), Denis Duran (bass) and Angel Calvo (drums) was signed to Capitol Records and released their eponymous EP that year. This was followed by the 1985 release of the ‘Heredity’ LP, produced by Howe and Dee Long, with three charting singles. Howe released it as the sole remaining member.

Many things changed in the band since then and in 2016, Rational Youth (now consisting of Tracy and Gaenor Howe), released the ‘Future Past Tense’ EP through Artoffact Records. That year, they appeared on the ‘Heresy compilation, released by the Cold War Night Life label. A play on the title ‘Heredity’, this album also featured covers of Rational Youth tracks by 18 artists from various countries, including former bandmates Dave Rout and Kevin Komoda.

We could write an encyclopedia about Rational Youth and the rest of the New Wave pioneers but history is still alive and it is here for all of us to remember and to further consider their huge influence on the next generations. This is music everlasting, so fresh and avant-garde at its times as it still sounds subversive and advanced. Only love and respect there, and a huge Thanks For The Inspiration Αnd The Stockpile!!!

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photo by Moira Law

Written by Loud Cities Mike