Alphaville's 1984 debut, Forever Young, deserves to be viewed as a classic synth pop album. There's no doubting that Germans are behind the crystalline Teutonic textures and massive beats that permeate the album, but vocalist Marian Gold's impressive ability to handle a Bryan Ferry croon and many impassioned high passages meant the album would have worldwide appeal. Indeed both "Big in Japan" and the touching, sad change-of-pace "Forever Young" raced up the charts in multiple continents. Borrowing inspiration from Roxy Music's detached theatricality and Kraftwerk's beats and rhythms, Gold and company hit upon a magic formula that produced here an album's worth of impossibly catchy tunes that could almost serve as pure definitions for the synth pop genre. The hits race straight for one's cranium and embed themselves upon impact. "Big in Japan" feels like a more serious cousin to Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok," as a slow-pounding beat spars with Gold's desperate voice. "Forever Young," a stark, epic song that would become essential for every post-1984 high school graduation, drips sadness and never fails to cause a listener to nostalgically reflect on life and loss. Outside of these hits, the remainder of the songs rarely falter, mixing emotion, theater, and of course electronics into a potent, addictive wave of synth euphoria. It's likely every fan could pick his own favorite of the other should-have-been-hits, but "Fallen Angel" deserves special mention. It begins with spooky, funny warbling and icy keyboards, and then explodes and transforms into a startling, romantic epiphany at the chorus. If its lyrics are a bit goofy or juvenile, it only adds to the heartfelt love the song expresses. Alphaville stick firmly to their synths and sequencers on Forever Young, but they keep things interesting by incorporating motifs from funk, Broadway, Brazilian jazz, and even hip-hop. Even when the band takes itself too seriously, the songs' catchy drive and consistently smart production cover any thematic holes. Forever Young is a technically perfect and emotionally compelling slice of 1980s electronic pop/rock music. It's also a wonderfully fun ride from start to finish.
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AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina