The Dream Academy, by the Dream Academy
The eponymous debut album of the Dream Academy has gifted music with one sublime and beautiful and deeply melancholy song, “Life In A Northern Town,” whose harmonies and message reflect a sense of nostalgia about a past that was lost between the 1960’s portrayed in references to the Beatles and JFK to the 1980s when the album was itself made, and make sense as an ode to Nick Drake. Yet while the group produced three studio albums between the mid 1980’s and the early 1990’s, they remain remembered largely for their one biggest hit. Given my retrospective interests, I was suggested this particular album, and it is worth wondering, is the Dream Academy worth listening to apart from their biggest hit? Is this a group that deserves a deeper examination or is their bit hit a fair representation of all that they had to offer? Let’s see.
The Dream Academy begins with the aforementioned “Life In A Northern Town,” which is a gorgeous song full of yearning and nostalgia. This is followed by the single “Edge Of Forever,” which is a love song that also plays to that feeling of nostalgia and yearning in a relationship that appears to be in a state of crisis. “(Johnny) New Light” gives a dream-like story song full of intriguing backing vocals and powerful instrumentation, especially percussion that, once again, is somewhat focused on looking back at the past. “In Places On The Run” provides intriguing instrumentation to a song that seems to reflect again back to a past filled with flight and exploration at the boundary of dream and nightmare. “This World” offers a poetic description of the unpleasant nature of “this world,” with the moody lyrics somewhat undercut by the beautiful instrumentation. “Bound To Be” is an upbeat song of appreciation of love and appreciation for a loved one. “Moving On” provides another gorgeous song, this one about moving on, where the peaceful music and somewhat anxious lyrics are in tension with each other. “The Love Parade,” the other single album, has dreamy harmonies and an optimistic message about love. “The Party” offers beautiful instrumentation but a singing approach that does not feel particularly festive and lyric that seem rather gloomy, ending with music from other songs from this album. The album closes with “One Dream,” which is a short song expressing what the narrator hopes to enjoy and avoid.
While all of the songs on this album are pleasant enough to listen to, this album is not nearly as good at it could have been with a bit more variety in the music and some better singing and songwriting. This album is definitely a vibe, if your vibe is for gentle songs with hints of woodwind and brass instrumentation that usually have a low tempo and a bucolic, peaceful approach to them. The group’s lead singer/lyricist, though, sees fit to fill this album with songs that are somewhat gloomy or anxious or in general a bit sour. While this song does have some standout tracks, “Life In A Northern Town” obviously, as well as Edge Of Forever” and “Bound To Be,” most of this album does not rise to those heights, and as a result it is an album that can be enjoyed when the mood is right but it unlikely to be an album that one returns to often.