Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two-Track Tuesday: The Dream Academy

It was 1985, and I thought that the world would freeze.

“The Dream Academy.” What could be a more pretentious, schmaltzy name for a band? For an album? To some extent, you almost expect the oboe and timpani. You don’t expect the well-crafted lyrics to blow through you like a snowstorm in some northern town. You don’t expect the level of musicianship holding the really tight songs together—what would be “taken care of” these days by punching one button on a computer but back then required talent, skill, and dedication from classically trained musicians.

You certainly don’t expect to listen to this cassette after storing it away for so many years and still be thinking about the songs a week later. You don’t expect something with this much pop sensibility to have anything worth speaking about these days. You don’t expect the oboe and timpani and layered vocals to sound—in their very ‘80s sort of way—almost timeless.

But there you are. And with David Gilmour at the helm of production! And Peter Buck stepping in for one track. In some ways, this album is just too bizarrely good; these musicians just too damn talented to produce a top-10 hit. You half expect them to be the one-hit wonder they most definitely are.

I have to admit that the oboe was one of the chief reasons I fell for this band back then. At the time, I played oboe as well. And here was a band that had oboe solos on almost every track. It gave me reason to believe that I too could be a popular musician. In that way, the pretentiousness and schmaltziness of The Dream Academy was really quite effective.

Every song is catchy and listenable. Except for the last track: I never liked that one. It seemed like cheating after so many good songs. At the time—and still—“The Party,” with its self-referential allusions to other songs on the album was really quite novel and cutting-edge in that high-postmodern sort of way. After only one recent listening, three tracks still stand out in my memory: “(Johnny) New Light,” “In Places on the Run,” and “The Love Parade.” But I always liked those songs. I had just forgotten how good they were when I stopped listening to this two-track regularly decades ago.

1 comment:

  1. No way! I didn't know you played the oboe. That's my favorite non-stringed instrument. I might actually have to check out this Dream Academy nonsense.