Like Keith Richards, heavy metal and the clap, the ’80s refuse to die. There’s been bands trying to revive them since about 12.30am on January 1, 1990. Many Kings Of Keytar have back-combed themselves into a lather, donned the skinny pink tie and struck the Le Bon yacht stance in the name of recreating the Decade That Shame Forgot. But all the hairspray blinded them to one important point: sounding like the ’80s is knowing retro cool in excelsis; looking like the ’80s makes you a pointless revivalist who should be skinned alive and buried in the same unmarked grave as Justin Hawkins and The Dead 60s.
So it took a glum New Zealander to separate the synths from the sequins. Ladyhawke’s louche synthetic pop is brazenly Bananarama, ridiculously ‘Rio’, and wonderfully Waterman, but the lack of posing – her sheer scruffiness – makes it the first credible ’80s pop record since ABC’s ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. The pan-pipe Pet Shop Boys of ‘Magic’ opens the record with the most romantic tale of pulling a groupie at a gig ever recorded and the soul-baring continues apace through ‘Manipulating Woman’ (concerns: two-faced harridans; sounds like: Cyndi Lauper), ‘My Delirium’ (concerns: going mental; sounds like: Jane Wiedlin) and ‘Better Than Sunday’ (concerns: break ups; sounds like: Kylie). It’s as if we’re lured through the first half of the record with whispered confidences and promises of dark intimacy until – bosh! – we’re sucker-punched by ‘Back Of The Van’ rubbing saucily up against ‘Paris Is Burning’ and suddenly we wake up at the mother of all Desperately Seeking Susan sleepovers.
From here on in the album oozes sass and smoulder. “I see you had a hit in ’89/Too bad we all don’t age as good as wine” she spits on ‘Professional Suicide’, putting the cat-mangled slipper into lazy ‘legend’ bands – “It’s shit what you do and it sucks what you play/It’s professional suicide!”. And Ladyhawke sidesteps all charges of hypocrisy by remaining tuneful throughout: ‘Oh My’ rumbles moodily along like ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler, ‘Crazy World’ is brilliantly Bangles in all its spangly pop cuddliness and even when the album turns slightly too mawkish in its pop culture references – ‘Another Runaway’ making like a sad ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ or ‘Love Don’t Live Here’ stealing its breathy chug from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Little Lies’ – it’s never less than helium-heady from the hooks. Ragged revivalism, then – it’s so the way backward.