Transcendance by Berlin – Contemporary New Wave at its Best

As I mentioned in my post about influential albums when I was trying to pick out just one new album (i.e. since about 2010) by artists that I like…

Transcendance – Berlin. I nearly went with their other recent album Animal, but this one is much more powerful with clever lyrics. Didn’t blow me away at first – but really grew on me.

I added a some more detail in my review on Amazon

The cover is impressive, but when I stripped this away, I found it was only a 10 track album, and one of those was a remix of a classic. At only 36 minutes, it seemed less impressive than the previous album, “Animal”. But, this one is a grower. The remix of “Sex (I’m a…)” is the best version to date (bonus point for correct pronunciation of “geisha” in this version). The more you listen to the album, the more you get out of it. 36 minutes? No problem. You will want to listen to it again and again, multiple times. It will keep you going for many pleasurable hours. A very welcome return from the most over-looked group of the past 40 years.

Having started doing reviews of other albums recently, I decided to add some detail to the above.

Another reason for doing the review now, as with the one I did for “Science Fiction” by Tom Bailey, is that I came across a podcast, Don’t You Forget About Me – The New Wave Music Podcast, which did a review of “Science Fiction” as well as “Transcendance” by Berlin in one episode. Having done one, it made sense to do the other. The podcast also gave a passing mention to Strings Attached by Berlin – which, as I wrote, is so much more than a greatest hits compilation.

For those not familiar with Berlin, here is some relevant information from Wikipedia

Berlin is an American new wave band formed in Los Angeles in 1978. The band gained commercial success in the 1980s with singles including “The Metro”, “Sex (I’m A…)”, “No More Words” and the chart-topping “Take My Breath Away” from the 1986 film Top Gun. The best-known lineup consisted of singer Terri Nunn, bass guitarist and vocalist John Crawford, keyboardist David Diamond, guitarist Ric Olsen, keyboardist Matt Reid, and drummer Rod Learned.

After splitting up, Berlin was featured on the VH1 show, Bands Reunited where the roughly pre-Love Life era lineup of the band (John Crawford, Terri Nunn, David Diamond, Ric Olsen, Matt Reid and Rod Learned) agreed to reunite as a band and as friends. They played one show at The Roxy in California to a sold-out crowd.

In July 2013, it was announced that a new album called Animal would be released on September 17, from which a single “It’s The Way” would also be issued.

On August 2, 2019, Berlin featuring Terri Nunn released their eighth album, Transcendance.

So, let’s turn to the album, “Transcendance” (note the spelling… which even the band, or at least their PR people, sometimes spell incorrectly) itself.

“I Want You” – As I noted in my review on Amazon, it took me a while to really enjoy this album. Looking back now, I don’t know why. And certainly the first track I loved straight off. Terri’s vocals are absolutely spot on during this track which has a great bass. This could so easily have found a place on their albums in the 1980s. Contemporary nostalgia at its best.

“Show Me Tonight” – This track features Richard Blade, a Los Angeles-based radio, television, and film personality, providing a fake advert which pretty much sums up what many of us imagine life for many in Los Angeles itself revolves around. Blade has his own history with Berlin, which I discuss in my review of World In My Eyes. Anyway, the track is a lot of fun.

“Transcendance” – This is such a powerful ballad. Particularly powerful if you are aware of the story behind it – which, in a nutshell, is about Terri coming to terms with the process of her mother’s passing. You can read more about this on the following page – Simply a beautiful song and a wonderful continuation to the track “Mom” on the album “Animal”.

“Lust” – Let’s face it, when it comes to Berlin, the topic of sex is probably not going to be far away. I don’t care how old Terri is (and we’ve all got older… and Terri probably more gracefully than many of us), this track is another that reveals just how sexual Terri’s voice is. The lyrics are a lot of fun – think there’s a bit of symbolism going on in there! – and yet again there’s a nice, strong base.

“On My Knees” – Another fabulous ballad. This is one of those tracks where you just have to absorb yourself in the lyrics. I have a feeling there is much more to the lyrics than what the initial interpretation may be. Maybe that’s one of the things that makes the track so great – there could be different meanings for different people.

“Sex (I’m A… )” – As I was saying, Berlin and sex. This, of course, is a re-recording of one of their most well-known songs… at least in the US and amongst Berlin fans. It didn’t (as far as I know) make much of an impression in the UK (where I am). Of course I am aware of the song from previous albums, but it’s never been a favourite. Until now. This re-recording was the best version to date (as I noted in the Amazon review, I was pleased that, due to my Japan interests, “geisha” is finally pronounced correctly). I’m not sure that the track was really needed on this album, but it fits, and, as I said, it finally, in my view, took this track to where it needed to be (“Strings Attached” takes it even further). If older tracks are going to continue to be dropped onto albums, in part thanks to the singles being on “Strings Attached”, I think attention go onto less well-known songs that I’d like to hear being given this attention – with “Scream” at the top of my list of such songs.

“No One Left Alive” – Wow. Just wow. This song is amazing. Terri’s vocals at their most powerful. Fabulous lyrics. Great tune. I really didn’t think the album could get any better than this track (I’m really puzzled why the album didn’t grab be at first, looking back now).

“All For Love” – the pace picks back up again for this track. As the title suggests, this is a love song – dedicated to Terri’s husband. Some more brilliant lyrics (the lyrics sound even more powerful given everything that Paul, and by extension Terri, has gone through recently) and well sung… seriously, how ageless is Terri’s voice? (I wish I could pour more praise on the musicians, who are equally worthy of it, but my ears and knowledge of music playing isn’t such that I feel I can comment in this area).

“In My Heart” – This track is dedicated to Natalie – Terri’s adopted daughter. Compared to “Mom” on “Animal” and the title track on this album, it’s interesting to have a song turning the focus to the next generation. It’s beautiful and probably reflects how many parents feel about their children, but perhaps even more powerful for those where adoptions are involved.

“Majesty” – Remember how I said that I didn’t think things could get any better than “No One Left Alive”? I was wrong. “Majesty” is majestic. Probably in my top 10 of all Berlin tracks (which is not, by the way, topped by “Take My Breath Away”). This is pure Berlin. This is why they should be making new music. Fabulous, absolutely fabulous.

For more information about the album, see the page on the band’s website.

I really hope that some of the tracks from this album will get included in the set list when Berlin get over to the UK to tour. They were due before the Covid-19 pandemic, but those concerts were postponed and then cancelled. Yes, there are the classic hits from the 80s to include (not necessarily the ones that would normally be played in the US), but the new ones must not be overlooked. A 3 hour concert may be needed! I’ll be there, that’s for sure.

So, as with “Science Fiction” and “432-1: Open The Vein” by Nasher, the fact that the album came out a few years ago is irrelevant. This is a great album to listen to. Tell everyone about it – in this day and age it’s hard for independent artists (as I know from the books I’ve done as an independent author), those not backed by a major record label, or those not included in the contemporary pop charts, to get their work known. So get this album and then get all your friends to listen too. You and they will not be disappointed.

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