My random number generating friend was being a little naughty. It kept giving me two bands on which I have temporary moratorium due to having covered them too recently (Rush and XTC). The generator got a little annoyed with my constant requests for a new number and decided to punish me with Wham’s! 1983 debut album, Fantastic.
Funny thing, but the U.S. pressing refers to the band as Wham! U.K. (much like Squeeze’s first effort had the United Kingdom’s initials tacked on). Apparently this was due to a naming conflict with an existing band, but I bet that unheard-of “Wham” didn’t think to add an unnecessary exclamation point at the end of their name. Seriously, it’s awkward as hell typing it. I don’t even know if I put the “apostrophe S” in the right place up there in the first paragraph. Should it be after the exclamation point? Who knows?
At any rate – onto the crazy dance pop.
The opening track is “Bad Boys”, which sums up a life of juvenile delinquency in seven simple words: “Doo doo doo doo doo, WOO woo!” Next up is “A Day of Sunshine”, which is a fairly generic dance song with a decent R&B rhythm. But I still hadn’t recovered from the “WOO woo’s!”, so… next!
I was surprised to hear they did a cover to The Miracles’ disco classic “Love Machine”. I would say it does the original justice if I could stand hearing the original for more than thirty seconds. But then we move onto “Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do)” and I’m reminded of that dark period where Caucasian pop stars thought incorporating rap into their songs would be a good idea (see also: Blondie and Adam Ant). To be fair, it’s not as terrible as one would think since it has both a catchy bass line and chorus and the rapping is simple enough as not to sound forced. But we’re still dancing around in ‘lame’ territory.
George Michael let Andrew Ridgley come out and pen some lyrics for the surprisingly copacetic “Club Tropicana”. There’s not much I can say about this Carribean pop song except that is sounds like a magical sound shower.
I was a little unnerved by “Nothing Looks the Same in the Light”, a song about staring at someone you met while they’re sleeping. The ‘chords of sexual harassment’ that accompany the creepy lyrics don’t help settle my uneasiness.
“Come On” is Wham’s! (yup, awkward punctuation) sole contribution to the burgeoning aerobics scene in the 80’s. It also goes great with a montage. The music has such an animated tempo that it forms a dark, hypnotic spiral on the wax. It’s practically visible from outer space. I couldn’t stop following it with my eyes. So much so, I forgot what the song was about. Probably partying or something.
Finally “Young Guns (Go For It!)” completes the debut album, acting as a bookend to “Bad Boys” as it sounds musically similar. Save, of course, for those ‘chords of doom’ that play after the lyrics “Death by Matrimony” are sung. And, of course, they stuck in more rapping by M.C. George Michael.
Those who don’t lift the needle within a few seconds of the fade-out are treated to a little piano ditty at the end of the album complete with someone getting socked in the gut (I would imagine). Cool or space-filler? You decide.
I’ll be honest. I’m embarrassed to own this album and more embarrassed that I smiled while listening to it. It’s the type of record you enjoy with the windows closed. It’s cheesy pop nonsense filled with barely competent rapping and delusions of lyrical machismo over a heavy dance beat. But it can also be kind of fun to listen to. Just don’t tell anyone – okay?