The Communards - 'Red' 35th Anniversary Reissue (London Records)

The Communards – ‘Red’ 35th Anniversary Reissue (London Records)

2022 marks thirty five years since the release of British synth-pop duo The Communards’ second platinum-selling album Red. London Records is reissuing the album on October 28th, with a veritable treasure chest of previously unreleased tracks and new remixes, as well as liner notes by Owen Jones.

Our gut reactions to and memories of the music that soundtracked our childhoods is often purely subjective – it is only when we revisit that music as an adult we can experience it more objectively and contextually and appreciate how influential, seminal or technically brilliant it was. I’ve never counted myself among the ranks of diehard Jimmy Somerville fans, but his face and unmistakable voice was everywhere during my childhood, whether as the frontman of Bronski Beat or alongside pianist Richard Coles as The Communards. Being an eleven year old girl growing up in ’80s suburban England I had very little concept of the political and societal issues Red and preceding albums from The Communards and Bronski Beat explored, or how important it was to the gay community to have openly gay artists sat high up in the charts. Musical enjoyment was all about poppy fun and frippery for smaller me, and on a superficial level the pure disco joy delivered by The Communards acted as actual tween catnip.

To come to Red in 2022 and listen to it in full from start to finish (for the first time) has been like a relearning of The Communards’ back catalogue, picking up on layers of nuance and strength which previously went straight over my head when I was dancing to their hits at school discos.

In 1987, AIDS was regarded as a death sentence and homophobia was rife. Even the basic idea that a same-sex relationships could be driven by love was treated as outlandish. Enter ‘There’s More To Love Than Boy Meets Girl’ – an 80s-pop candy floss confection that also teaches the world that boys can fall in love with boys, and girls with girls as well. ‘Victims’ powerfully articulates how when it comes to the AIDS pandemic no one is to blame, there are only victims. Gay rights activist Mark Ashton, who died aged 26, is remembered in ‘For A Friend’, a beautifully moving eulogy.

Musically, Red stands the test of time. Containing some of their most commercially successful pop and disco hits like ‘Never Can Say Goodbye‘ (which receives the accolade of being a cover that has taken on its own life separate from and just as, if not more, recognisable than the original), Red confirms how influential The Communards’ output still is. A lot more than just poppy fun and frippery, Red is an 80s disco and pop ballad blueprint. Coles’ synth and piano has not dated in the slightest, each track sounds fresh as a daisy whilst still being unmistakably of its time. Somerville’s vocals still take your breath away, whether he’s driving pure-pop classics to their heady falsetto crescendos, or lending depth to the more meaningful moments.

There’s also enough bonus live versions, demos and remixes included in the anniversary reissue to keep the most die-hard Communards fan happy. Included is Shep Pettibone’s remix of ‘Never Can Say Goodbye‘, which is a raucous slice of 80s production ridiculousness, culminating in a hilarious Casio preprogrammed demo wig-out, which is actually completely brilliant. My personal highlight is the same track receiving The 2 Bears treatment – Joe Goddard and Raf Rundell stretch out the disco bones of ‘Never Can Say Goodbye‘ into ten minutes of absolute house-driven joy, bringing it bang up to date for a 2020s dancefloor and utilising Somerville’s glorious crescendos and Cole’s synth genius to full effect. But The 2 Bears aren’t scared to roll over and show their dark underbellies as well – injecting a seam of depth and foreboding you can glimpse running through the track during its slow builds and breakdowns.

The 35th anniversary reissue of Red is out on 28th October and is available as a double CD and a special edition vinyl release on red and white vinyl. You can preorder it here.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.