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Rational Youth – Photo Credit:Marc de Mouy
If you are younger then 40 years old, it’s very likely that today will be introducing you to the legendary new wave band Rational Youth for the first time. If you were around to witness (or experience) the original new wave movement, you will certainly remember their seminal album Cold War Night Life, which is about to get a deluxe expanded and remastered edition through Universal Music Canada.
These new wave pioneers present this deluxe expanded edition, which includes rare memorabilia and new liner notes by frontman Tracy Howe. We have the pleasure of premiering ‘Saturdays in Silesia’ off this reissue – the new versions of both the original track and its extended remix, which originally appeared as a 12 inch single for the band back in 1982.
While this extended version is now available as a double LP on translucent vinyl and is also streamable on Spotify and other digital platforms, now it is being made available on CD. This expanded reissue features extensive liner notes, testimonials, and rare photos from the band’s personal archives. It also includes both the original 1982 album tracks and all of the related original extended remixes and singles.
When Cold War Night Life was originally released in 1982, it was one of the first all-synth pop albums released in Canada. It became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time. The album was also distributed overseas, even making the Top Ten on Polish State Radio, despite the fact that Poland was still behind the Iron Curtain. It charted on college radio across Canada and made inroads into commercial radio, particularly in Quebec, where the French version of ‘City of Night’ (‘Cité Phosphore’) went Top Ten.
Later, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the track ‘Dancing on the Berlin Wall’ was re-released as a single across Europe, spreading like wildfire.
Rational Youth was formed in 1981 in Montreal, Quebec by Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn, both of whom idolized Kraftwerk. Considered one of Canada’s first synthpop groups, their second gig saw them opening for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. After releasing their first single ‘I Want To See The Light’ in 1981 for YUL Records, an independent label established by Marc de Mouy and Pat Deserio, Howe and Vorn were joined by Kevin Komoda.
“The most remarkable thing about making this album, from an historical perspective, was the fact that we were making an all-synthesizer pop album, and in Montreal in 1981-82 that was pretty new,” says Tracy Howe.
“A lot of our arrangements and all the synth sounds were worked out at home and sequenced, so when we got to the studio we would set all the synths up and patch everything, tell the engineer to put machine in record and roll the tape, we’d start the MC-4 MicroComposer and half a song would instantly go to tape. The rock and roll engineers we had were kind of stunned by this, and by the fact that we were using a drum machine (a Roland TR-808, one of the first on Canadian shores).”
Following Vorn’s departure in 1983, the group — now consisting of Howe (vocals, keyboards, guitars), Komoda (keyboards), Denis Duran (bass) and Angel Calvo (drums) — was signed to Capitol Records and released their eponymous EP that year. This was followed by the 1985 release of the Heredity LP, produced by Howe and Dee Long, with three charting singles. Howe released it as the sole remaining member.
After retiring the project in 1986, continued interest led to a 1997 CD reissue of Cold War Night Life and a reunion concert for Howe and Vorn in Sweden. In 1999, Rational Youth, with Howe joined by keyboardists Jean-Claude Cutz and Dave Rout, released To the Goddess Electricity, the first LP in 14 years, on Sweden’s October label. The trio toured Scandinavia until playing their final concert at the 2001 Tinitus Festival in Stockholm.
Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn united again in 2009 at the initiative of Marc Demouy, recording a new version of their 1982 track ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’ in honour of the twentieth anniversary of the wall’s dismantling. In 2010, it was issued as an EP by YUL Records on CD, followed by 2011’s City Of Night /Cite Phosphore EP on CD, consisting of re-recordings of this early single plus remixed versions of the original recording.
In 2016, Rational Youth (now consisting of Tracy and Gaenor Howe), released the Future Past Tense EP through Artoffact Records. That year, they appeared on the ‘Heresy’ compilation, released by the Cold War Night Life label. A play on the title ‘Heredity’, this album also featured covers of Rational Youth tracks by 18 artists from various countries, including former bandmates Dave Rout and Kevin Komoda.
Also fall back into some fantastic nostalgia with me checking out this earlier tracks from this album’s original addition