Rational Youth: “Cold War Night Life” CAN – CD 
- Close To Nature
- Beware The Fly
- Saturdays In Silesia
- Just A Sound In The Night
- Le Meilleur Des Mondes
- Ring The Bells
- City of Night
- Dancing On The Berlin Wall
- Power Zone
- Coboloid Race
- Cité Phosphore
- Saturdays In Silesia [extended version]
- City Of Night [danse mix]
- I Want To See The Light
As night follows day, today we are looking at the elephant in the room about yesterday’s posting. I was trying to post about the debut Men Without Hats EP and quickly got swept up in the Canadian synthpop scene and that led to Rational Youth. A band I’d heard about for ages; often from commenters like Jordan [who is Canadian] and was all over homegrown records like the kind that Rational Youth released early on.
The commenters I look to for their wisdom have already weighed in on Rational Youth in yesterday’s post comments. Consensus says that their debut album, “Cold War Night Life” was the synthpop goods. With a title like that, how couldn’t it be? This was definitely synthpop; not technopop. All synths and drum machines with very prominent 808 showing up at just the right time. The duo at the core of the band were Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn who were Kraftwerk fans eventually joined by Kevin Komoda for the recording of their seminal album.
I’m listening to it now on the band’s Bandcamp page and betcha-by-golly-wow, it’s pure minimal synth catnip. Mannered, what we’ll call minimal synth now, 40 years later, pop songs with a clear punch behind the melancholy vibe. I’m not shocked to hear that the band were picked to open for an OMD Montreal gig. Someone had their head screwed on right. I can’t imagine a much better match up of homegrown synthpop talent with British Royalty.
The band reissued the album in 1997 with a few bonus tracks on EMI Canada but 2019 saw the band get the kind of Monastic DLX RM we prefer, with all of the 12″ single bonus tracks appended to the album and although there was the de riguer clear 2xLP, I was thrilled to see that the humble CD got the love, too. Good lord, the prescient “Dancing On The Berlin Wall” just popped up into my earbuds. I can see why this was played into the ground by Euro DJs in 1989 after the Wall actually fell. Tres “Man Machine.”
My mind boggles that far, far lesser Canadian minimal synth albums like Ceramic Hello’s “Absence of Canary” were getting the love by reissue labels like Vinyl On Demand in advance of this far more stellar piece of work. Fortunately, anyone who wanted the full pre-major label output of this band, from the period of being on the tiny YUL Records label, Vinyl-on-demand did release a 5xLP box in 2014 that atoned for their sin of releasing Ceramic Hello first.
Rational Youth: “Cold War Night Life – Rational Youth recordings 1981-1984” – GER – 5xLP 
LP 1 – Cold War Night Life
- Close To Nature 4:40
- Beware The Fly 4:05
- Saturdays In Silesia 4:14
- Just A Sound In The Night 5:07
- Le Meilleur Des Mondes 3:14
- Ring The Bells 5:13
- City Of Night 4:03
- Dancing On The Berlin Wall 4:34
LP 2 – Yul Records 1981-83
- I Want To See The Light 4:23
- Coboloid Race 5:21
- Cite Phosphore 4:11
- Le Meilleur Des Mondes (7″ Version) 3:30
- City Of Night (Danse Mix) 7:31
- Saturdays In Silesia (7″ Remix) 4:10
- City Of Night (Original 1982 Mix, Unreleased) 4:12
- Power Zone 3:40
- Saturdays In Silesia (12″ Extended Mix) 7:18
- Dancing On The Berlin Wall (Illegal Rams Horn Remix) 5:40
- Pile Ou Face 2:37
LP 3 – Demos, Obscure, Live & Rare 1981-83
- Cinema V Show Intro 0:57
- Saturdays In Silesia (1981 Demo) 4:29
- Just A Sound In The Night (1981 Demo) 5:52
- Dancing On The Berlin Wall (1981 Demo Version) 3:18
- Affection Theme 3:28
- Arcade 2:08
- Lakeshore Drive 4:02
- City Of Night (7″ Radio Mono Mix) 3:55
- In Your Eyes (1983 Demo Mix 1) 2:52
- Holiday In Bangkok (1983 Demo Mix) 5:36
- Intro / Le Meilleur Des Mondes (Ottawa Live 1983) 2:47
- In Your Eyes (Ottawa Live 1983) 2:50
- City Of Night (Ottawa Live 1983) 6:27
- Cinema V Show Outro 1:03
LP 4 – Live In Winnipeg 1983
- Nothing Left To Say 3:00
- Just A Sound In The Night 4:35
- I Want To See The Light 5:22
- Beware The Fly 3:55
- Ring The Bells 5:05
- Before The Flood 3:42
- The Man In Grey 3:24
- Dancing On The Berlin Wall 4:03
- Holiday In Bangkok 5:55
- Saturdays In Silesia 4:53
- Pile Ou Face 3:51
- Latin Lovers 5:31
- Close To Nature 4:06
LP 5 – The Capitol Years
- In Your Eyes 2:51
- Just A Sound In The Night (1983) 3:49
- Latin Lovers 4:03
- Holiday In Bangkok 5:30
- The Man In Grey 3:22
- In Your Eyes (Extended) 5:19
- Hot Streets 3:02
- I’ve Got A Sister In The Navy (1984 Alternate Mix) 3:41
- No More And No Less (Extended Paul Northfield Mix) 6:25
- Freeze (LP Version) 4:59
- Heredity (LP Version) 4:15
- Close To Nature (1984 ESP Mix) 4:16
- I Want To See The Light (1981 Alternate Mix) 4:27
- Coboloid Race (1981 Alternate Mix) 5:15
It sort of breaks my heart to see lovingly curated boxed sets out on vinyl only! If readers are familiar with VOD, they have a prohibitively expensive subscription model with releases eventually getting a separate release for sale…possibly. It’s kind of confusing to an old guy like me who just wants to buy albums for sale. And certainly on the silver disc of my choice. I was startled to see that the box was still available in nooks and crannies of the internet for slightly less than three figures. The VOD Box even managed to take in the band’s Capitol Records era. But Howe also stated that the majors just didn’t know what they wanted to do with them, by the same token. Let’s not forget that the’83-’84 era was where the majors were frantic not to miss “the next Duran Duran,” according to Howe. And we all know where that leads to in the Great White North. Join us next post for a look at Images In Vogue!
Whoa PPM; now you are moving a bit too quickly down the rabbit hole. Now that you are hitting IIV, you’ll need to branch off to Skinny Puppy, 69 Duster and….
Hopefully you segue somehow into the Spoons (I recall you mentioning you had a post on them). It’s been a great few Canucky days.
I second a request for a post about Spoons. And IIV will be most welcome too :)
Vlad – I was actually joking about Images In Vogue! They are another Canadian band whom I’ve heard of but not heard! I can’t believe that I have not posted 10-12 times on Spoons. One week I will have to devote to a full series on the incomparable “Arias + Symphonies!” The best album out of Canada.
Ever. And in the running for best North American album to boot!
Can’t argue with that assessment. It is also in my top 5 CDs to “headphone and zone” along with the first two Voice of the Beehive, Ultravox’s Rage in Eden and REM’s Reckoning. I managed to see The Spoons on a triple bill with Men Without Hats and A Flock of Seagulls in late Feb-2020 and the music still holds up live (and Gordon Deppe does not age!!)
Wonderful band and always somewhere on my playlists. I have seen them live several times in my hometown, including the mentioned support slot with OMD, it was always an enjoyable evening.
CWNL is a classic album of the genre. Every track is solid. I remember purchasing their first 12″ I Want To See The Light ( and I still have it) and being fascinated by the artwork. The YUL name is a reference to our local airport.
Many more amazing Canadian acts with that new wave sound: Spoons.Strange Advance.Skinny Puppy, MOEV. We will not get into the other Canadian acts such as Rush or Blue Rodeo (probably my favourite of all Canadian bands) or Tragically Hip, all of whom I also enjoy but that is not what PPM is about!
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Jordan – Thanks for sharing the thoughts and that ephemera with us. I have all of my ticket stubs and need to do something constructive with them. I might have a few handbills, but not many packed away. But you must have missed my Rush posting when Neil Peart died. I’ve already crossed that Rubicon.
Another synthpop discovery for me and another issue in my Dgs wishlist :)
The only Canadian band I got to discover was the SPoons indeed. I have the “Talkback” album from 1983 and the soundtrack album “Listen to the city” which is ok…
And thanks for following my blog!
Music Timelessness – Music and Travelling – Welcome to the comments! You were lucky. I have wanted “Talkback” since 1983 but I have never seen a copy for sale anywhere. As it was produced by Nile Rogers, I had expected a big push in America back then as Nile was royalty as a producer after “Let’s Dance.” Only to find my expectations dashed as I never saw the first copy of that one! Indeed, to this day it only ever had a Canadian release! The CD of recent years is still a must for me. At least I did find a copy of “Listen To The City” in 2001 on my last trip to Toronto.
Your blog is like the “Record Shopping Road Trip” category of my blog with a travel budget of thousands of dollars! You manage to go worldwide! I wish that you could have monthly posts like that! I have fantasized about a vodcast based on Record Shopping Road Trip where it’s just my friends and I going to record stores all over and riffing on what we find in the bins. But I’m still waiting on that venture capital injection to pull that conceit off!