“I fear the crazed and lonely looks the mirror’s sending me these days”: its showiness may be several cartwheels away from “West End Girls”‘ austerity, but the second number one of 1986 shares a little of the first’s dread and dislocation. Anxiety always sits well on handsome shoulders – the idea of the heart-throb with hidden depths has been a motivator in pop since, well, Sinatra at least: even so Morton Harket’s combination of florid woe and extreme Scandinavian prettiness is particularly enticing.
It helps that he has such an unnatural, catwalk voice – that combination of studied ESL cadences and poperatic reach means that every phrase is a pose, with that “crazed and lonely” line delivered with delicious aplomb. Unlike a lot of mid-80s pop, the singing – trying for theatre, not a cramped and nervous misunderstanding of soul – actually matches the crash and crunch and thrill of the music. After the panto gothickry of its echo-laden piano intro, “Sun”‘s grandiose clatter reminds you of Duran Duran’s confused commercial peak, only married to a stronger chorus than anything Duran managed post-’82. And speaking of 1982, this shuddering, soaring, synthetic thing is as close as we ever come to the full-blown Associates sound at number one, a gleaming bridge between the awkward sometimes genius of the new pop era and the heartbreaks of teenpop to come.