Okay. You know how in VH1’s Where Are They Now and other like programs they show the once-hot bands still chugging along, living on past glories, sometimes with only one member still using the name? You now know what it is like to listen to Berlin’s live album. Singer Terri Nunn is the only one left from the original group, her backup band are faceless players without character or interest.
Berlin’s defining sound was a mixture of cool (that’s a descriptive usage, not a qualitative judgment), robotic music (and sometime vocals) with lusty, full-blooded lyrics. Never one of the greatest of ’80s bands, but with a handful of songs well-remembered by those of us who rate the era highly — “No More Words,” “The Metro,” “Take My Breath Away” — although that last, from the soundtrack of the movie Top Gun, always seemed to me a better instrumental track (by synth maven Giorgio Moroder) than a lyric.
If you like these songs you’re better off seeking out a greatest hits collection; as the new, increased guitar arrangements don’t add anything particularly memorable to the old songs. The new songs (including three new studio cuts tacked on to the end of the CD) include a Blondie cover. The originals, co-written by Nunn and Charlotte Caffey (who I’d prefer to see go-go back to her old group) are just reheated versions of old lyrical themes over a shuffled deck of current musical cliches, and Nunn’s sex-kitten vocals haven’t exactly improved with time.
This album has no real reason to exist unless you are a hard-core fan. And given lyrics like “Tell me this is more than just a masturbation fantasy, not to mention the well-nigh legendary “Sex (I’m a..),” perhaps I mean hard-core in more than one way. It plays, it finishes, it’s done. And now you, and I, never need think of it again.