THE LUXURY GAP from SOUNDS April 30th 1983

The only artist I can think of who is so full of self-bluster and so uselessly prodigious as HEAVEN 17 is Tommy Steele. But, there agian, he is talented; and a cruel thought at the back of my mind wishes to call this album 'The Talent Gap' as there's something desperately lacking in HEAVEN 17. You come away from 'THE LUXURY GAP' like you come away from eating too many cream cakes: you drown in the ordinary. They throw everything in, including a synthesised kitchen sink. The credits run and run and run... these boys are out to impress. 'THE LUXURY GAP' is too much.

I confess I had to skip bits repeatedly, simply because the bravura, the bluster and the desperate attempt to do something failed each and every time. Further (listening) involvement seemed to contaminate you, the listener, with that HEAVEN 17 brand of failed luxury.

'KEY TO THE WORLD' at the end of the second side, is typical. This immodest little song, like the rest of the songs on 'THE LUXURY GAP' about the big things (poverty, money, industrial might, dinner parties), rises to the most ridiculously would-be climax (akin to the seizure of goose green) and the listener is astonished to find he's sitting in the midst of all this hoo- hah and is totally unmoved. There is something, as yet uncharted elsewhere, but most unpleasantly American about HEAVEN 17. Ther morals are well dodgy too. Billy Joel said what they constantly say in one single song, 'I love these days' (you tasted that champagne, you witnessed the fin de siecle revelry) and, as a result, this complusion with the fringes of the elite (that luxury gap - they drive Datsuns, not Golf GT(s) tends to make you think it's at root, an obsession with the 'good life'. They portray it all favourably, they are never really moved to despise it. When they say "the luxury gap/is driving me to the brink...", they are talking through their (special, fashion of the month) hats. HEAVEN 17 represent the true Mr Ordinary, always 'on the brink', bit of gambling or cowboy imagery here and there in your life, Inevitable love hang-ups, constant self-association with the big things (the third world, decapitation of monkeys, dinner parties) that your spattering of grammer school education gives you - and a sense-deadening following after fashion. I heard bits of 'GAP' played 'live' side by side with the Jam on a Tube programme recently. Weller's face was bathed in sweat; HEAVEN 17 looked like they were playing chess. To say they lack naturalness is like saying Garry Bushell is no Marcel Proust, it hardly seems the centre problem. Or, if it were, they surely have enough gadgetry aroound them to actually be the reincarnated Wilson Pickett. No, they end up like the failed decadents they depict: Satisfied with their failure, it's slight romance, it's whimsy, the idea of it and the assurity that determined Virgin will finance another record. Maybe this time, under BEF (Boring Eclectic Farts?), Reagan and Thatcher will duet on 'If I Ruled The World'. But even then, the special HEAVEN 17 kind of constant failure would render it a flop. HEAVEN 17 are a big blank nothing at the end of a very long leash. That they are named after an Anthony Burgess idea merely compounds their (moderately) provoking dreadfulness.

** Review by DAVE McCULLOUGH.