The first thing you need to know about Danny Wilson, I guess, is that it was a band featuring no one named Danny Wilson. Like many people who were only aware of the band briefly, via its hit “Mary’s Prayer,” I’d long assumed Danny Wilson was a solo artist; given that
1986’s 1987’s Meet Danny Wilson predated my career in “journalism” by a year, and given that I’d sworn off working with Virgin’s publicity department by the time this album came out, there weren’t many opportunities for me to learn otherwise.
But thanks to my esteemed colleague Will Harris, who recently included Be Bop Moptop in a forthcoming Bullz-Eye piece about the best albums you’ve (probably) never heard, I was recently inspired to dig up a used copy of this record, and since it’s a cutout (not to mention one that I’m willing to bet some of you actually remember), here it is.
The second thing you need to know about Danny Wilson is that they were either unwilling or incapable of producing a follow-up that would make the least bit of sense to people who had only heard “Mary’s Prayer.” I’m really not sure how indicative of the band’s sound that song was or wasn’t; all I can say is that if you go into this album expecting heaping helpings of smooth, catchy ’80s pop, you will experience a rude awakening. In a word, Be Bop Moptop is strange.
The album starts off with “Imaginary Girl” (download), an ambitious/self-indulgent leadoff (take your pick) that begins with a slow fade, the sound of rain, and the sort of crooning that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Rufus Wainwright B-side, before jumping into the sort of synth-inflected baroque-ish pop that had fallen deeply out of favor by the time this album came out. The band briefly threatens to settle down in breezy Anglo-pop territory, with “The Second Summer of Love” (download) and “I Can’t Wait” (download), but it’s a ruse; Be Bop Moptop never stops being a schizophrenic mess.
Schizophrenic messes can make for great albums, of course, but when you’re whipsawing between melodramatic mush like “Loneliness” (download) and likable pop tunes such as “I Was Wrong” (download), it’s a little difficult to hit your stride. Something’s bound to give, and in this case, it’s probably going to be the listener’s patience; not only can’t the band figure out what it’s trying to do here, it doesn’t have the songs to hold your attention while it dithers. The more straightforward songs are enjoyable enough, if fairly slight overall, but the “experimental” tracks â€” I’m not even sure if that’s what they are â€” teeter between silly and unbearable.
They had a nice sound, though, and it isn’t hard to see why there are fans who still wish there had been a third album. Maybe Mr. Harris will stop in here and share an eloquent defense of Be Bop Moptop‘s merits with you all. As for me, I’ll be happy to stick with “Mary’s Prayer.”