Bronski Beat

Truthdare Doubledare

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Bronski Beat were already faced with a formidable challenge in following up their debut, The Age of Consent, an album whose frank homosexual themes and catchy electro-disco made the London trio a huge left-field success. Then singer Jimmy Somerville departed, taking with him the wail that sent gay dancefloor anthems like "Smalltown Boy" and "Why" into the stratosphere, and the job facing Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek suddenly looked impossible. It was, in fact, although they made a respectable go of it on Truthdare Doubledare, recruiting far less flamboyant vocalist John Jon and offering a more polished Hi-NRG sound on the single "Hit That Perfect Beat," which reached the Top Five in Britain. The rest of the album, which spun off another similar-sounding hit, "C'mon! C'mon," is fine, kinetic club music that lacks the ambition and personality of the debut. Despite songs that address the spread and awareness of AIDS ("Dr. John") and the pressures of gay life ("Punishment for Love"), the band seems a few steps removed from the pain that Age of Consent exposed so compellingly. And part of the reason is the obvious one -- John Jon, though undoubtedly skillful (and less fatiguing than his predecessor), simply lacked Somerville's ability to hit listeners' raw nerves, instead of just that perfect beat.

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