M

Pop Muzik: The Very Best of M

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Now this is the way a career retrospective is supposed to play. Gather up all the hits and most significant songs, add a selection of unreleased cuts that actually deserved to see the light of day, and put it all out at a wallet-friendly price. That's exactly how new wave pioneer M (alias Robin Scott) is memorialized on Pop Musik, and the results should convince anyone that he was far more than just the man behind the hugely influential title track, a worldwide hit in 1979. The groundbreaking sound of "Pop Muzik" certainly isn't to be discounted, of course -- on that song and further singles like "Moonlight and Muzak," Scott brought the innovations of Kraftwerk to the masses, giving their Teutonic techno a big dash of lyrical cheek, as well as pop hooks that hit like a sledgehammer. But Scott's seldom-heard later work, a generous portion of which is included here, shows he didn't run out of ideas after his early success. The opposite is true, in fact, as his frequent style-hopping probably contributed to his dwindling fan base. Still, the muscular funk rock of his third album, Famous Last Words (on which his was assisted by an all-star lineup that included Thomas Dolby, Gang of Four's Andy Gill, and several members of Level 42) produced some great moments, including "Smash the Mirror." And Pop Muzik also includes four gems from Scott's unreleased fourth album, which saw him experimenting with African music long before it became the '80s' world beat du jour. "Jive Shikisha" and "Are You Ready," in particular, are charming fusions of highlife rhythms and Western pop. They add an exotic capper to a very well chosen collection; despite Scott's uneven career, the only true dud here is the 1989 remix of "Pop Muzik," marred by stiffly-programmed drums. That failure to improve on the original just confirms how far ahead of his time Scott usually was, though -- and this album provides plenty of better-sounding examples.

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