Mr. Mister – Welcome To The Real World (1985)

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Love is so strange
How we change from day to night
Love is so strange
How we change from black to white

The music of our childhood and early adulthood…it seems that no matter how crappy the music is of the time, there’s still a strong, lasting connection to it. Recently I’ve been listening to some of the albums I’ve used to blast ‘er up in my ride’s cassette player or in the apartment during those hazy college days. And when was that, you might ask? Well, that was during the whole Duran Duran/Flock Of Seagulls/Men Without Hats time now called The Eighties.

You can’t mistake the time frame from when this music came from; the heavily processed vocals, over-synthesized sounds of Yamaha DX-7’s and the Sonar drums brought way to the front of the mix (you can thank Hugh Padgham and Phil Collins for that distinctive booming noise). And lyrics that weren’t exactly mind tingling. Along with the spandex and mullets, that’s what makes VH-1 Classic’s “We Are The Eighties” so entertaining. OK, sure, there were a lot of great artists of that time and there are for every era, but more often than not they got pushed to the fringes; a trend from that time which persists to this day.

But, I digress. I used to think Morris Day’s Colour Of Success was such a great set of jams, then I cued it up recently for the first time since wine coolers were outselling Budweisers and got a hard cringe out of it. Same with Robert Palmer’s Riptide. I got a semi-cringe out of Hall & Oates’ Big Bam Boom, although “Out Of Touch” is still a great pop tune. Even Miles Davis’ formally beloved Tutu hadn’t aged all that well and Miles’ records typically have the opposite effect. I haven’t gone back to “rediscover” Wang Chung’s Mosaic or ABC’s How To Be A Millionaire but uh, I don’t think I’ll need to. I know they suck, now. But curiously, they made me pretty happy back then. Ah, to be young and foolish and drunk again.

But there’s a few records out of that decade I still cherish as before even though they identify so much with that period. Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell still does it for me. If anything, Tears For Fears’ The Seeds Of Love sounds even better now than it did back in ’89. Who knows, maybe that record was one year ahead of its time.

About the same time Tears For Fears released that monster hit album Songs From The Big Chair smack dab in the middle of the decade, another mainstream pop band seemingly from nowhere unleashed a blockbuster. Mr. Mister’s Welcome To The Real World of 1985 spun off two #1 pop hits “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings” and another top ten hit “Is It Love”.

Mr. Mister rocked slightly harder and were certainly more spiritual in a positive but vague way than the primal scream therapy disciples at Tears For Fears. Still, it’s a pretty good guess that their fanbases overlapped a lot.

True to the times, Welcome To The Real World had those heavily processed guitars and vocals, the Yamaha synths and Phil Collins booms, even served up in supersize portions. And yet, while revisiting it the other day, it still didn’t out and out suck. Huh.

There’s a explanation for this, however. The songs were generally written better and performed better than most MOR music of that time. It’s a cheap and easy explanation, but I’m sticking to it. The band was founded by bassist/lead singer Richard Page and keyboardist Steve George.

These guys didn’t just materialize out of thin air like they were sent through a Star Trek transporter, they were already polished L.A. musicians and songwriters for several years by the time they recruited guitarist Steve Farris and drummer Pat Mastelotto, both of whom were also veteran sidemen. Instead of helping out the careers of The Pointer Sisters, Kenny Loggins, REO Speedwagon, Eddie Money, Al Jarreau and countless other name artists, they felt it was time they had launched their own careers in the spotlight.

Any notion that Page & George’s West Coast session player pedigree were going to make Mr. Mister sound like David Foster’s defanged Chicago were quickly dispelled right off with the bombast intro of “Black/White”, a strong tune quickly followed by the power anthem “Uniform Of Youth”. “Run To Her” is perhaps the only true ballad on this collection, although it would hardly remind anyone of “You’re The Inspiration”.

“Tangent Tears” could have been a radio hit too, but “Kyrie” with it’s instantly recognizable fluttering synth opening, Page’s superb vocals and the grand metal guitar entry about a minute in made this the chart topper it deserved to be. Only when you reach the title track at the end does this record sound like disposable generic mid-80’s pop crap.

The band took two years to follow up with their 3rd effort Go On but like their first one, it made little impact and the band soon broke up afterwards. To make a long story short, the individual members went back to the supporting roles they played before Mr. Mister.

So for every Prince, The Cars or Dire Straits people got into during the Reign of Reagan, there were always a few other acts that might cause them to shudder today. I know that’s been the case for me. But Mr. Mister with their sole hit album isn’t one of them.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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