Forbidden City

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"Forbidden City" is a quality single. The title track, taken from the band's Raise the Pressure album, uses lush string sounds and a confident vocal turn from Bernard Sumner to hint at the glory days of the band's debut album. "Forbidden City" is one of the band's best songs since that debut. "Imitation of Life," despite overly obvious lyrics, sounds almost worthy of placement on Raise the Pressure, but it makes a great deal of sense as a B-side. The song is rather unfocused, two minutes too long, and reeking of New Order impersonation; at least Sumner is mimicking his own past. "A New Religion" has definite bite, and it almost conjures up the joys of Johnny Marr-era The The. Sumner's vocals are again confident, if a bit matter-of-fact, working nicely against Denise Johnson's impassioned background vocal delivery. Raise the Pressure was widely known as Sumner's anti-depressant period, and it seems abundantly clear that there's something holding back the band. At a time when Sumner and Marr could have doused their fans with pop joy, they chose introspection and synthetic quasi-anger. The B-sides hint at aggression lyrically and musically, but the songs lack the bite and energy that would help listeners to get the message. Forbidden City, like its parent album, is worth an occasional listen, but it's not quite up to par with the super-group duo's best work.

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