Record Review: Berlin – Pleasure Victim DLX RM US CD – Another Rubellan Triumph [part 1]

berlin - pleasure victim cover art

Rubellan Remasters | US | CD | RUBY15CD | 2020

Berlin: Pleasure Victim DLX RM – US – CD [2020]

  1. Tell Me Why 5:34
  2. Pleasure Victim 3:50
  3. Sex (I’m A…) 5:07
  4. Masquerade 4:07
  5. The Metro 4:10
  6. World Of Smiles 3:51
  7. Torture 2:40
  8. Sex (I’m A…) (Single Remix) 3:31
  9. Tell Me Why (Single Remix) 4:10
  10. The Metro (Euro Single Remix) 4:28
  11. Masquerade (Single Remix) 4:04
  12. Sex (I’m A…) (Extended Remix) 8:08
  13. The Metro (Extended Remix) 6:19
  14. Masquerade (Extended Remix) 7:22

We’ve been anticipating this one most of the year, thanks to the transparent stream of news that label maestro Scott Davies drip feeds us on the Steve Hoffman Music Forums. When my spouse recently asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I simply her sent a link to Rubellan Remasters for the last four releases. They are now on rack and today it’s the 2nd album [or mini-album, since it’s was originally seven tracks] which we’ll start looking at.

I was into Berlin from the point of hearing the original 7″ of “Tell Me Why” in late 1981, and when Geffen picked up the top selling LP from Enigma [which was not in my local stores at the time, only in intriguing ads in Trouser press] I bought a copy in late 1982 once it was easy to obtain. I was always disappointed by the re-recording of “Tell Me Why” on it and quite frankly “Sex [I’m A…]” gave me hives. These two factors contributed to me never really embracing this release back in the day, and it was cut free in the Great Vinyl Purge. Now that it finally exists on CD, in a format worthy of my attention, this has now changed, And dramatically, for what it’s worth.

Let’s get right to the starting line. The re-recording of “Tell Me Why” has a pixelated energy that I recall the original not having; being more smooth and sophisticated of mien. At least my 39 year old memory is. I don’t have the record. It’s still rather expensive. But one day, one hopes! Had I not ever heard that early version first, I might have more fully embraced the song as performed here. It’s the great blend of guitars, analog synths, and real drums that we love here at PPM. Technopop, as I’d call it. I like the gimmicky synth stabs as they fairly reek of New Wave. It’s still a step forward in vibe from the quirkier New Wave of their rare debut album, “Information.” As much as their next album for Geffen, 1983’s “Love Life,” was a move to something even more removed from the forge of New Wave that had birthed the band.

berlin pleasure victim UK cover artThe delicate title track almost had a John Barry Bond Music vibe to it, as it was a stab at a more commercial dusky ballad perfect for an overcast fall day following a failed love affair. None of the New Wave quirkiness that was so evident on “Tell Me Why.” The music bed was almost all synths with real bass and drums ceding the spotlights to the synth strings and heavy portamento lead keys. The sound was thin and introverted, but appropriate to the song and lyric with good singing as usual from Terri Nunn. I have the UK 7″ single as shown nearby where only UK Mercury made this one a single. Berlin have an interesting number of singles that were with only one or two territories in addition to singles [you can guess which ones] which are international calling cards.

berlin - sex cover artThen there’s “Sex.” Normally I’m more than happy to listen to a band deep into the Moroder well of sequenced electromotive power, but there was always something callow, and distasteful about this song for me. It comes down to attitude. Prince can be blunt and vulgar and make it sound wonderful. Not so much with John Crawford. His pen lacks the wisdom and playfulness that The Purple One brings to erotic song. Crawford sounds like a boy out of his depth with the conceit of this song. The song is simply Crawford stiffly intoning “well I’m a man” while Ms. Nunn adopted various female sexual personae in response. As if the difference in perceptions was somehow profound and [dare I say] risky. I have squirmed in embarrassment for the band every time I have heard this song, which proudly wears its immaturity on its sleeve.

Next: …Masks Of A Different Kind


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15 Responses to Record Review: Berlin – Pleasure Victim DLX RM US CD – Another Rubellan Triumph [part 1]

  1. You’ve perfectly summarized my feelings about this song as well. Musically, I love it; lyrically, I hate it. There are plenty of songs that deal with sexuality bluntly (even in a juvenile sense), from Devo to Ian Dury with a million stops in-between, but very few I enjoy where the (male) writer is projecting so heavily onto the woman who has to sing these trite stereotype. Luckily, the band had other and better tricks up their sleeve.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Strangely enough, the writing credit on that song only is shared among Crawford, Nunn, and guitarist David Diamond. But I can’t help shake the feeling that it was all down to Crawford.


    • Vlad says:

      The lyrics to “Sex” are by Nunn, that’s very well-known, she boasts about it in almost every interview, viewing them as her big socio-cultural contribution, a picture of a repressed man and a liberated woman. So no need for male-bashing, these trite stereotypes are projected from a female.


      • postpunkmonk says:

        Vlad – And they’re still trite, but at least she got a piece of some publishing. Haven’t kept up with Ms. Nunn, so thanks for the info.


        • Vlad says:

          Well maybe they seem trite now, but then looked like some kind of revelation or at least a statement? I don’t know, but Terri does seem to think she projected something groundbreaking (I’ve read lots of interviews with her, it’s very obvious). In fact its her who wrote Berlin’s more raunchy songs (lyrically) – “Touch” from Love Life is very much in “Sex” vein, “Pink and velvet” from Count Three and most of the later material. While Crawford ones are more on an introverted side. So it’s really on reverse, with poor John getting more than his share of bad rap :)

          Speaking of publishing, I’m afraid it’s all rather sad as they disbanded being heavily in debt to their label due to high costs of recording studios etc. So I don’t really know. Surely made album credits more diverse, in fact it’s a pity Crawford didn’t really allow for much outside input while at least Diamond has been a promising songwriter. Maybe that’s where Berlin suffered the most, not unlike Spandau or other bands with one main songwriter.


  2. jsd says:

    I saw Berlin live back 1984 (i think, opening for Thompson Twins, what a show that was). Teri Nunn gamely tried to get the crowd to sing along with the line “we make love together” but *nobody* was having any of it. Everybody just stood there arms crossed, looking around like “hm, maybe if we ignore this it will go away”.

    I still like the song but yeah, it’s definitely adolescent and cringy.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      jsd – Actually, Berlin on the “Love Life” tour was my 3rd rock concert ever. The live “Sex” was super cringy. But the rest of the show was more to my liking. And Real Life were fantastic openers! So amazed and pleased that I saw that fine band.


  3. zoo says:

    You may be interested (or appalled) to learn, if you didn’t already, that there is a “Sex” 2019 version. And yes, I had a listen. Couldn’t control myself.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – Ugh! You poor guy! I’ve heard nothing good about the 2019 Berlin reformation album with Nunn/Diamond/Crawford together again. And since it was on Cleopatra, they have a clause in every contract where an act HAS to re-record inferior new versions of any hit they might have had and include it on the album! The last Berlin album I ever heard was “Love Life” and I might give a listen to “Count Three And Pray” since I actually have dfond memories of “Like Flames,” but that’s as far as I’d go down that road. The pure Nunn albums all scare me off big time. Didn’t Terri Nunn have a Prince-related solo album or am I getting her coonfused with Dale Bozzio?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Christopher Merritt says:

        So not interested in the “new” version – and Cleopatra is a fairly shady operation, so I generally stay clear. Berlin had their time – best to focus on the superior output from the 80s.


        • postpunkmonk says:

          Christopher Merritt – I only own three Cleopatra discs. They all have rehashes at gunpoint of some earlier hit song by the artist. The music industry is only a hair’s breadth from organized crime [it IS a legal loan sharking operation] but beyond that, some labels are just born shady. Roulette Records, for instance. The actions of Curb Records and Cleopatra always invoke the NQR postulate; there’s something not quite right there.


      • Duncan Watson says:

        You do need to give Count Three & Pray a listen. That is the album which introduced Berlin to the UK audience (we still have no idea about the “Masquerade” or “The Metro”) and of course Take My Breath Away is on it but the rest of the tracks make up a killer rock album. It indeed includes the aforementioned Like Flames although Will I Ever Understand You is astounding and they even managed to pull in Dave Gilmour to do a stunning guitar solo on Pink And Velvet. Go on; you know you want to!


  4. Pingback: Record Review: It’s Immaterial Album Shimmers After Almost 30 Years Tucked Away In A Closet [part 3] | Post-Punk Monk

  5. Nortley says:

    The only Berlin song I ever liked was “The Metro.” Its all synth mode was gave the lyrics the perfect chilly exterior they needed while skirting up to sterileness without crossing over into complete roboticness. Yaz(oo) did synth pop much better with their electronic atmosphere melded with Alison Moyet’s astonishingly human vocals, but with “The Metro” Berlin came up with their sole winner before going off into bland MOR territory with “Take My Breath Away.”

    As for “Sex (I’m A….)” I agree. It is an embarrassment. A weak attempt at being provocative for the mere sake of knowing that controversy sells much in the way Madonna operated at the height of her calculated and manufactured career. She just had a better publicist, I guess.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Nortley – Madonna probably had the best-paid publicist in show business in the 80s. Would NOT have wanted to be them for even a second. If you felt Berlin were too cold [and I like cold], give “Masquerade” a try. It’s a fantastic pop song. It almost seems like a different band entirely.


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