It's a shame that The Passions are sometimes relegated to being one hit wonders. Sure, it's a helluva one hit (1981's "I'm In Love With A German Film Star") but to think of the U.K. band just in terms of that one track is to overlook the superb new wave stylings on the band's first album, 1980's Michael and Miranda, recently reissued by Cherry Red. The album has been expanded with some bonus tracks but, really, the 12 cuts of the debut album itself together make up a sort of template for what new wave of the era should have always sounded like.
Tracks like "Oh No, It's You" positively chime in a way that recalls, oddly, early New Order as well as a less strident Gang of Four. Frankly, there's a lot here that seems to have paralleled Gang of Four's stuff. Barbara Gogan's vocals on "Man on the Tube" are shouty in a way that links them up with her peers in the era, and those who came a bit earlier (Poly Styrene, for example). The funky "Suspicion" swirls in a glorious mess of clashing riffs that seem to coalesce unexpectedly around her worried vocals.
Stuff like "Pedal Fury" belongs to bassist Claire Bidwell and drummer Richard Williams. Bidwell would leave the band after making Michael and Miranda and it's unfortunate as her work here anchors this sort of vaguely propulsive new wave. It makes perfect sense that The Passions were on Fiction, the home of The Cure, as something like "Brick Wall" sounds like the distant cousin of "Killing an Arab" or another early Smith and Co. single.
Michael and Miranda succeeds largely as a time capsule of what guitar-based new wave was at its best. If there are synths on this album, I didn't hear them. Decidedly not of its era and entirely of its time, Michael and Miranda, out now in a lovely new reissue package from Cherry Red, is a buried treasure that's been recovered. Current bands like Shopping work so hard to sound like this and that's a compliment to the lasting appeal of The Passions, a band worth revisiting for so many reasons more than just for that one other single.
Michael and Miranda, with 3 bonus tracks and photos and a discography in the lovely liner notes booklet, is out now via Cherry Red.