"Do you like Huey Lewis and the News?" asks Patrick Bateman, the titular maniac of controversial novel and cult-classic film American Psycho. "I think their undisputed masterpiece is 'Hip to Be Square,' a song so catchy that most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should," he says, sizing up the drunken colleague slumped in his easy chair. "Because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity and the importance of friends — it's also a personal statement about the band itself."
Because actor Christian Bale delivers the monologue like a cheerful infomercial host while preparing to bury an ax in Jared Leto's skull, it's understandable that most people probably don't pay attention to Bateman's assertion that Fore! eclipses its predecessor, Sports. But they should, because it's not just a clever device to reinforce a subtext about yuppie culture's immense shallowness — it's an important statement about why Sports deserves to be celebrated on its 30th anniversary.
Sports and Fore! are equally glossy, with big group arrangements and top-flight '80s production. However, Fore! 's most memorable aspects remain on its polished surface, threatening it with a timestamp, while Sports builds its legacy on substantial songs, played by a seasoned rock band reveling in its identity as such.
Their first two albums might have been "too New Wave" for Patrick Bateman, but a hint of beer-chugging bar-band rock always bubbled beneath the surface, stemming from the group's pedigree as protégés of Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and Phil Lynott, and some members serving in Elvis Costello's backing band on My Aim Is True. On Sports, that mug foameth over, pushing back the angularity and letting showmanship and polished swagger shine through. With a fanfare of hot saxes and throaty guitars, "The Heart of Rock 'n' Roll" lays it out simply: Whether a band dresses up their music as New York post-punk, L.A. hard rock or any of a million related styles, its appeal can be traced back to the snarling, hip-shaking marriage of country and blues that is rock 'n' roll. The playing on "I Want a New Drug" is tight, but it avoids the twitchy, manic precision that plagues Fore! in general and "Hip to Be Square" in particular, leaving "New Drug" with a groove funky enough to inspire Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" — so closely, in fact, that a plagiarism suit was settled out of court.
Digging into the text, "Walking on a Thin Line" is no "Born in the U.S.A.," but the song deserves credit for taking on the plight of Vietnam vets without turning it into a schlock spectacle. Rebutting the concept of Huey as pied piper of the nouveau-riche, "You Crack Me Up" is a withering indictment of the Me Decade, written just two years in. "If This Is It" presents a mature take on relationships, wrapped around a massively infectious hook; "Stuck With You" from Fore! is a logical follow-up — and just as catchy — but its narrative about a couple that sticks together because breaking up is too much work feels thin by comparison. Slimy limey Reginald Bigsby's observation in the "Stuck With You" music video — "Bit of a job following up the ol' Sports, eh?" — might be a little too close to home.
Even the cold calculations of RIAA sales figures mark Sports the clear winner. When both albums' sales were last audited, four years after their initial release, Sports had sold 7 million copies in the U.S. to Fore! 's 3 million. It remains to be seen whether the reissue will push Sports over the 10 million mark — according to a press release, it's close already — but odds are strongly in favor.
well fuck you anon! Go and Catch fire!
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