Is Alf a perfect album? Will it be your go-to when you want a throwback to the ‘80s?
Looking through the bargain bin of your record shop is a trip back in time, but with only certain stops. You can touch on the ‘70s or the ‘90s, but their volume is usually limited. Pre-Beatles ‘60s records are everywhere, matched in abundance only by the ‘80s, for which you can find a bevy of records that incorporate all of that decade’s style and substance. You might even stumble upon artists that were huge once-upon-a-time. Which brings us to the dollar-bin staple Alf by Alison Moyet.
Moyet’s career kicked off as half of synth-pop duo Yazoo, alongside Vince Clarke. Melding his creative synth work with her grounded, bluesy voice, they recorded two successful albums together before splitting up. While Clarke went on to form Erasure, Moyet launched a solo career with her 1984 debut, Alf. While it didn’t make much of a splash stateside, the record did hit number one in the U.K. with several successful singles. Despite that, it feels like the album’s faded from memory, not appearing in many ‘80s-themed TV shows or dances. That’s a shame, because it offers some slices of delightful ‘80s pop.
Alf kicks off with its strongest song, “Love Resurrection.” With synths that glitter like falling icicles, this bop is made to get people on the dance floor so Moyet’s immense vocals can wash over you. While very much of its time, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have enjoyed a revival when the ‘80s came back in fashion. “Honey for the Bees” works nearly as well, with some clanging percussion and a jittery synth line. “Twisting the Knife” is a pure club banger. You can picture a crowd of people grooving to this track in a fog-filled, strobe-heavy room.
Much of what stands out on Alf is Moyet’s distinct voice, elevating what could have been a rote synth-pop record into something more soulful, lending a gravitas that anchors the often-airy melodies that float above her. This comes through clearest on the ballads. “For You Only” is transformed from something potentially trite into a powerhouse performance. “Where Hides Sleep” opens with almost a chant before centering around a seesaw synth melody. “Steal Me Blind” leans furthest away from the pop vibe, her vocal and the understated instrumentation giving the track a lovely, spiritual feel.
It’s only the songs that fall in-between these two moods that fail to deliver. “Invisible” has a great vocal, but the piano comes off as clunky, and Moyet covers the same territory she did on “For You Only.” Plus, the holiday bells make it sound like it should back the conclusion of a feel-good Christmas film that people just have on the TV in the background. “All Cried Out” has a great chorus, but doesn’t do anything else to warrant its seven-minute run time.
Is Alf a perfect album? Will it be your go-to when you want a throwback to the ‘80s? No. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a listen. There’s a lot to love in Moyet’s stunning pipes and her ear for melody. It’s not a revolutionary record, but it’s worth pulling out of the bargain bin. Give it a listen, and next time you have a dance party, throw some songs onto your playlist. You may earn some pleasantly surprised faces.