I posted the following review earlier this afternoon on the Sputnik Music website:
1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) was released (wait for it...) in 1984. It's one of those albums where the story behind it might be as interesting as the music. The band was commissioned by Virgin Films to write music for the soundtrack of their upcoming film Nineteen Eighty-Four, based on the dystopian George Orwell novel about a future where everything is controlled by a dishonest and malevolent government. Unbeknownst to them, however, the director Michael Radford had no interest in using an electro-pop musical backdrop for his story, and he had already asked British composer Dominic Muldowney to write a more traditionally classical score for the same film. Hijinks ensued. Radford edited the film together using only Muldowney's score. The band got pissed, as they had been dragged into this conflict unknowingly, and now they were having their efforts unfairly disparaged. The studio intervened and re-edited the film, this time using the music from both scores. The film received some awards, which gave the director the opportunity to publicly complain about having been "forced" to use Eurythmics' music. Good times.
This album, therefore, was released as a "soundtrack" album, although the version of the music that is actually used in the film is significantly less electronic than the version released here on the LP. Within the context of Eurythmics' musical history, it can be seen as the third, and final, album of Eurythmic's electronic period, following after Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and Touch (both released in 1983). With their following album, Be Yourself Tonight (1985), Eurythmics moved heavily in a more traditionally R&B direction.
The album didn't do nearly as well in the charts as the band's two previous LPs, for several reasons. For one, it wasn't as heavily promoted as either of those had been. Because the film belonged to Virgin films, the soundtrack was released by the Virgin label instead of Eurythmic's usual RCA label, which understandably treated it as a one-off soundtrack instead of as a major pop release. Also, as a soundtrack, the LP was much less single-heavy than were the band's previous two releases. The only successful single from 1984 was "Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)" which did well in the UK and Europe (but tanked badly in the U.S.). In fact, most of the songs on the LP didn't even have traditional lyrics -- they were largely instrumentals that included Annie Lennox's vocal grunts, cries and other what-have-you's.
So how is the music on the LP? Well, I'd have to admit, in listening to it recently for this review, I've had to revise my opinion upwards. When Eurythmics first formed as a duo, it was with the intention of taking pop music in a more experimental direction, and this is about as experimental as the band ever got. Some of the tracks are excellent. "Doubleplusgood" is a joyous musical illustration of Orwell's notion of government "doublespeak" that gets it just right, and "Julia", while it wasn't successful as a single, is haunting and beautiful. As for "Sexcrime", while it's not the typical hook-laden single, it is a pretty decent song -- there's a nice tension between Lennox's somewhat ethereal verses, and the harsh robotic choruses.
I think the primary negative of the album is this -- whatever their aspirations (and what their detractors would label as pretensions), Eurythmics was really a singles band. To the extent they are remembered today, it's for Top 40 hits and MTV music videos. 1984, while it contains some striking and memorable music, is light in the area that Eurythmics is best known for, the three-to-four minute catchy pop tune. It does, however, do an excellent job of capturing much of the feeling of the Orwell novel, which is presumably what Lennox and Dave Stewart set out to do. So on its own terms, it's more successful than not.
Overall, I'd rate 1984 as a pretty good album. While it doesn't have a dominant single such as "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", "Here Comes the Rain Again" or "Who's That Girl"" from the band's previous two albums, it does have atmosphere and some interesting music. In retrospect, I see it as a final, if slightly flawed, entry in what was for me Eurythmics' most interesting musical period.
Rating: 3 of 5 stars