Laughter Tears and Rage

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Act was a short-lived collaboration between synthmeister Thomas Leer and German pop diva Claudia Brucken. The pair followed up their modest four-track 1987 record Snobbery and Decay with the somewhat pretentious, half-baked concept album Laughter, Tears and Rage. At their best, Act comes close to approximating the dark-edged techno-pop sound of the Eurythmics, as on the opening "Absolutely Immune" and the blustery "Gestures." Better yet, the record's final track, "Theme from Snobbery and Decay" (taken from the band's first album), with its cutting commentary on Robin Leachery and its sweeping string arrangement by David Bedford, bears echoes of those kings of synth satire, the Pet Shop Boys. But most of the album chokes on its own goth-pop ambitions, allowing Brucken free rein to milk every available ounce of angst out of her strident vocal solos while Leer loses himself in a murky electronic purgatory of his own design. But if a small handful of mildly tuneful techno-pop is enough to hold your interest, make sure you find the American edition of Laughter, Tears and Rage, which contains a cover of the Smiths' "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" that is missing from the European version.

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