Men Without Hats–Rhythm of Youth

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Everybody knows the song. Everybody loves the song. That’s not the problem. The problem rears its ugly head when you try to tell someone that the full-length LP from which the song “The Safety Dance” is taken from is a uniformly excellent record. I’ve been laughed at, kicked and even slapped across the face just for expressing this sentiment. And this is supposedly a free country!

Ivan Doroschuk is no Dave Gahan or Andy McCluskey. He’s better, in fact. His voice quavers and yelps like a friendly dog and with his flowing brown locks, he kind of looks like a shaggy dog. He also, and not many people knew this at the time–dressed like a 16th century peasant all the time, not just for the “Safety Dance” video. This sartorial stubbornness caused him all sorts of problems, especially at the funerals of family members and at the bank when he applied for a home mortgage, but he had a vision and he stuck with it.

The record, though, is 40 or so minutes of exuberant, infectious synth pop. He and his cohorts manage to make their Korgs sound both frosty and warm at the same time, not an easy trick to pull off. “I Got The Message” is a dance song, but also a telescopic view of a rapidly diminishing future that can make a person feel sad if they are sitting alone in bed drinking when they hear it. I’m not sure what the song delivered in French is about, but I do know that Celine Dion performed it for her husband at their star-studded 1994 wedding. If there is a misstep, it’s probably “Living in China” whereby Ivan presents what he thinks is a comprehensive overview of a country of over a billion people that seems to have been researched from the backseat of a cab kerb-crawling through Montreal’s Chinatown and tries to rhyme egg-foo-yung with ping-pong. Not their shining moment.

But, hey, check it out for yourself from one of the many sites that allow you to listen to music for free. How can it harm you? And also, next time you hear someone call Men Without Hats a “one hit wonder” don’t be afraid to remind them that “Pop Goes The World” charted almost as high only four years later.

Sources I know up in New Hampshire tell me GG Allin used to carry this cassette around with him everywhere–that must count for something…

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