I have seen the past of the future of 1980s revivalism, and its name is (i.e. was) Younger Younger 28’s.
Straight outta North Yorkshire (namely Scarborough and Harrogate), Younger Younger 28’s began as the solo project of Little Angels keyboard player Jimmy Dickinson. When the Brit hard rockers split up in the mid-1990s, Dickinson started Younger Younger 28’s as a techno act, and managed to place a couple of tracks on the soundtrack of computer game Test Drive 4. He then teamed up with singer Ashley Reaks, and re-tooled Younger Younger 28’s as a synthpop group.
With Reaks taking on the persona of Joe Northern, Dickinson as Jimmy D, and the addition of two female singers called Andie and Liz (the internet seems unable to help with surnames), YY28’s became a partly satirical, partly straight late-90s re-imagining of early 80s synthpop. Particularly (there’s no getting away from it) The Human League. Unfortunately, since it was only 1999, the 80s were still officially uncool, and while the generational cycle of pop guaranteed a revival in the 00s, this attempt to get in early was doomed to failure. Somehow, Younger Younger 28’s managed to be simultaneously behind the times in their evocation of the future, and ahead of the times in their evocation of the past. Bad luck.
Debut single “We’re Going Out” (lyrically less “kitchen sink drama”, and musically less “retro”, than most of their songs, with a hint of the then-fashionable “big beat” sound) crept into the lower end of the top 75 and that was as far as they ever got. A second single, “Next Big Thing”, and an album, Soap, flopped, and a couple more singles (one of them a superfluously faithful cover of The Cure‘s “In Between Days”) only made it to promos.
To add irony to insult (or something), the floptastic “Next Big Thing” was a song that would have a lot of resonance when the 80s revival did roll into town a few years later, co-inciding with the age of Pop Idol, Popstars, The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, and that one the BBC tried which never really took off:
The single was available on two CDs. Both contained the Jeremy Wheatley mix of “Next Big Thing”. One CD also had the supposed “album version” with an extra verse (although in the end, they actually put the Jeremy Wheatley mix on the album instead), and a rubbish remix…
The other CD had two extra songs, both very much tongue-in-cheek:
At some point I really must get around to checking out Ashley Reaks’ numerous solo albums.