By now, one ought to recognise a common trend in my AOTM choices – magnitude. When listening to a new album, I search for that je ne sais quoi which sets apart a standard album from an outstanding work of art. A Secret Wish is such an album.
Picture this: Boney M and Kraftwerk have a baby. This baby in turn marries ABBA. Their offspring would be Propaganda. The shocking amalgamation of sounds is so very pleasant.
Their debut album, A Secret Wish, appeared just after ZTT had crested commercially in July 1985, and remains a fascinating addition to the clumsy, clattering canon of 80s electronica. Powered by the vocal mystery of Claudia Brücken, the sweetness of Susanne Freytag and the engine room of Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper, the group was able to sate the European fantasies of the label. BBC Music.
The opening number, Dream Within a Dream, sets a sky high standard for what is to follow. You are initially entranced by Claudia Brücken’s distinctive Deutsche vocals, and out of nowhere, a resounding and unyielding bass-line elevates the track flawlessly.
Jewel and Sorry for Laughing are the only two tracks which I avoid. They lack the drive and mysticism of the other tracks. p:Machinery is particularly good. A cascading bass and synth combination holds up the track and gives it a unique aura. Listen out for the middle of the track, where an astounding bass – I don’t even know what to call it. Just hang on to your seats.
The rest of the album basks in the halo effect of its opener. Duel, their greatest hit, the track which gained them the oft-repeated epithet of being “Abba from hell”, chugs along full of pop frisson and fizz. Ibidum.
Dr Mabuse is another highlight from this album. “Why does it hurt when my heart misses the beat?”. Listening to the insidious weave of interdependent bass; synth and sparse drum beats, one can understand why the BBC refers to them as ‘ABBA from hell’.
A Secret Wish is massive. And if you’re not convinced by Propaganda’s genius, listen to this song from Claudia Brücken’s album A Million Other Things:
And now, if you’re ready, here is my second favourite tune from Ms Brücken: