Rhythm Of Youth

Men Without Hats

Backstreet Records, 1982


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There's been a commercial on American television recently, though I can't remember for whom. It features a portion of a song that was a hit in the '80s, then it stops and a caption appears: "Admit it - you were still singing," or something to that effect.

I don't know how many people would admit it, but one song I remember well from 1983 was "The Safety Dance". WBBM-FM (back in the days when they didn't suck) played it incessantly - and though I hated it at first, it eventually grew on me. I ended up buying the full-length album, Rhythm Of Youth from Men Without Hats, listened to it a few times - and then lost the tape.

About three years ago, I was helping my parents clean their garage (a job we still need to finish), when I rediscovered this tape - and I was thrilled. That evening, I rediscovered my long-lost treasure, and it made me wonder why the name of Ivan Doroschuk didn't become more famous in America.

Maybe it was their roots - this was a band not ashamed to flaunt their Canadian heritage, even singing songs in French. (The example on this tape is "Cocoricci (Les Tango Des Voleurs)".) Maybe it was the weirdness of the video for "The Safety Dance" - not many videos featured a pretty girl and a mandolin-strumming midget prancing around a field. Maybe - just maybe - we weren't ready for Men Without Hats in America, as we were still trying to decide what to do about Men At Work.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Damn shame - 'cause Doroschuk and his brother Stefan, the two core members of an ever-changing lineup - put out a rather enjoyable album of electronic music. Just as much rock as dance, Rhythm Of Youth is one example of where the '80s - God help me - went right.

"The Safety Dance," obviously, is the highlighted piece on the album - coming in the extended "dance" version and the single version. It still is fun to listen to, even to bop around the apartment to when no one's lookin'. I seem to remember that "I Like," the opener of side two, had a video shot for it - and I swear I saw it once. It was a logical choice for a follow-up single, and why it didn't reach the upper half of the charts I can't explain.

Even if these were the only two decent songs on Rhythm Of Youth, it would be worth picking up. But hold on there, Lumpy, 'cause there's more. "The Great Ones Remember" is a surprisingly powerful song that features Ivan Doroschuk's vocals going from a booming roar to a subdued whisper in an instant. LIkewise, "Things In My Life" is a track that I could have seen being shipped to radio - danceable, yet with lyrics that were somewhat intelligent.

If you were smart enough to buy the tape instead of the vinyl, you got two bonus tracks - the single version of "The Safety Dance," as well as "Living In China". Just a question - why didn't the latter make it onto the vinyl? It's both an irreverent and an insightful look at the country from the perspective of a world resident in the heart of the Cold War (not to mention only being six years removed from the death of Mao, instead of 22 today).

My liking this album is sure to shock those who claim that I'm anti-pop. Well, maybe - but Men Without Hats were doing something right on this album. They combined good songwriting with addictive melodies and lyrics that made you listen to them - and if it happened to be poppy, that's just too damn bad.

I read on one of the newsgroups that Rhythm Of Youth had been re-released overseas as a two-for-1 package with the followup album Folk Of The '80s (Part III) - this is an album that has yet to see the miracle of CD technology in this country. With the constant interest in all things '80s, maybe VH-1 could lay off the Michael Jackson jerk-off film festivals and try to give this band the recognition they've waited 15 years for.

Go ahead, pick up Rhythm Of Youth, and slam into a brick wall while doing "The Safety Dance". A little pop never killed anyone.


Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Backstreet Records, and is used for informational purposes only.