All-Time Albums: #36



A1 Dream Within A Dream 8:04
A2 The Murder Of Love 5:13
A3 Jewel 3:07
A4 Duel 4:41 (UK single, #21)

B1 P–Machinery 3:50 (UK single, #50)
B2 Sorry For Laughing 3:27
B3 Dr. Mabuse (First Life) 4:57 (UK single, #27)
B4 The Chase 4:05
B5 The Last Word / Strength To Dream 3:00


The finest album ever released on the ZTT label was not, surprisingly, by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Delayed until the summer of 1985, while messrs Horn, Morley and Lipson were otherwise engaged in/distracted by the Frankie juggernaut, Propaganda’s debut proved to be far more satisfying and, in many ways, far more representative of the Zang Tuum Tumb aesthetic.

Think ABBA meets Kraftwerk. Think the ZTT trademarks of Horn’s production with layer upon layer of Fairlight-induced industrial pop. Add in arch, Teutonic vocals and nods to poetry and existentialism, rather than The Lads’ rough hewn chic and sign-on black humour. Propaganda were probably a better fit for the more cerebral aims and pretentious claims of the ZTT enterprise. Less fun, more substance.

It would have been easy for any slight momentum created by the Nine Lives Of Dr. Mabuse single reaching #27 in early 1984 to have long since dissipated by the time of A Secret Wish’s eventual release. Even the second 45, the enduring, lighter art pop of Duel, had been out several months by that point. Yet the album managed a respectable Top 20 entry, even if no further hits were forthcoming (not that they didn’t try and try and try with P:Machiney). Traditional promo strategies be damned!

What’s interesting about A Secret Wish is how Dr. Mabuse is relegated to the middle of Side Two, a brave move given it was most people’s introduction to the band. It works because the rest of the album is full of striking, strident, exciting and unpredictable music. There are shades of “…Pleasuredome” in the elongated intro of opening track A Dream Within A Dream, which draws you in rather than hammering the listener over the head with one of the more abrasive, uptempo songs (The Chase, Sorry For Laughing, Murder Of Love).

Duel is here, a track whose profile has grown over the years, next to its negative image Jewel, a brilliant cacophony of studio trickery which turns the song inside out and upside down. P:Machinery really ought to have been a smash (god knows how much ZTT spent on marketing it, without success), and the rest of the second half is as strong as the first, with Mabuse and a reprise of …Dream bringing it all full circle.

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