The aptly named Dream Academy broke out of obscurity in 1984 with a sad, billowy, delicate, yet intricate pop style encapsulated in the unlikely hit “Life in a Northern Town.”
They are still working in the same vein on their third album, but the collection’s one undeniable pleasure is an anomaly for the group. It’s a surprisingly moving version of John Lennon’s “Love,” which maintains some of Lennon’s emotional honesty while dandling it on a beat that’s pure acid house—the British style that’s an uneasy blend of psychedelia, disco and hip hop.
If you’ve heard “Love” on the radio and are tempted to run out and buy A Different Kind of Weather, be forewarned: That single is the last carefree moment you’ll enjoy. The rest of the album finds songwriters Nick Laird-Clowes and Gilbert Gabriel (they are the group’s singer and keyboardist) mourning over matters personal (the wasted rich-girl junkie of “Lucy September”) and global (the rain-forest depredations in “Forest Fire”).
Both in the layered arrangements and in Laird-Clowes’s mawkish and foolhardy voice, it’s obvious that Dream Academy belongs in the evolutionary line of British pop that started with new romantics like ABC and Spandau Ballet and continued through Tears for Fears. With all these bands, unless the song-writing is excessively catchy—and it rarely is—the music sounds almost oppressively sorrowful.
On this album, Dream Academy gets into that woebegone mood in an unusually potent fashion with songs like “Waterloo.” Yet, despite the album title, this is the same forecast as ever.
Misery loves a sound track. If you’re wandering under slate-gray skies with a heavy heart, this is an ideal tape to trudge along to. Otherwise, avoid it as you would a thunderstorm. (Reprise)