BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO: URGENTISSIMO (1980)
1) Senza Riguardo; 2) Dove Sarà; 3) C'E Qualcosa; 4) Luna Piena; 5) Paolo Pà; 6) Felice; 7) Ma Che Idea; 8) Il Cielo Sta In Alto.
Fresh, sizzling, off-the-grill electronic Italian dance-pop from 1981, anyone? Didn't think so. Perhaps the move to a blatantly commercial sound was as inevitable for Banco as it was for the absolute majority of their progressive brethren — but even such brethren as Yes, Genesis, or Gentle Giant managed to handle the transition with more self-esteem: thirty years on, it is still possible to think of a few reasons to dig out 90125 or Abacab other than pure childhood nostalgia. This transformation, in comparison, results in such utter shite that the only reason to listen to Urgentissimo is strictly culturological, as in — you thought US and UK mainstream pop tastes in the early 1980s went down the drain? have a look at the Italian pop taste!
In the short term, the strategy worked: the band managed to launch several local hits on the Italian charts, of which ʽPaolo Pàʼ was the biggest, convincing Banco that this was, indeed, the way to go on. In the long run, these corny abominations serve as the perfect textbook example of how it is possible to take the worst aspects of a successful «intellectual» band and use them to reforge it into a conglomeration of happy pop idiots.
It is not just that these «post-disco» Eurodance tunes are utterly primitive in comparison to you-know-what. I am not sure that, composition-wise, ʽPaolo Pàʼ or ʽDove Saràʼ are that much more «dumb» or «simplistic» than, say, some Oingo Boingo ditty from the same time period. ʽDove Saràʼ, for instance, has a fairly liberal lead guitar score from Maltese, and ʽPaoloʼ has several keyboard parts with the Nocenzi brothers still competing for the listeners' attention like they always used to. Basically, if you want «totally primitive», there are much, much worse examples in the same genre.
The one thing that is really disgusting is a complete loss of a sense of «adequacy». DiGiacomo's vocal talents are now let loose to convey «serious emotions» in a musical context best fit for a teenage disco club — the songs are sung as if they are supposed to mean something when they really don't: the only meaning implied is «please keep on buying our records so we don't starve in this strange new age». And the only real purpose behind the Nocenzi brothers' keyboard hooks, this time, is to get your sorry butt wiggling to those Hot New Funky Sounds — best illustrated, perhaps, by the repetitive six-note chorus melody of ʽMa Che Ideaʼ, which could, for all I know, be an old AC/DC riff transcribed for synthesizer.
Only two of the tracks still preserve faint traces of more worthy purposes: ʽSenza Riguardoʼ, once you have suffered through its Big Heavy Mammoth Riff (which honors the slowly emerging pop-metal movement), has some free-form soloing in the middle, and ʽFeliceʼ has a brief nod to the band's former fusion pedigree (but even so, integrates the fusion-esque chord changes into a totally club-oriented dance number). Note that this paragraph has been inserted strictly out of considerations of courtesy and politeness — it is not, by any means, recommended that anybody go out and look for these songs as «lost delights». They are simply marginally less disgusting than the rest. Also, the brief instrumental album closer ʽIl Cielo Sta In Altoʼ is supposed to work as an artistic atmospheric coda, with two synthesizers trading «heavenly» lite-jazz lines against an irritatingly repetitive clavinet bassline.
Does it work? Well, even if it did, what's two minutes of soft, inobtrusive, jazz-poppy textures to us after thirty minutes' worth of complete embarrassment? Welcome to one of the cheesiest sellouts in European pop music history, with a crashing thumbs down.