Photo Credit: Brendan Barrett
The fourth full-length album from Albanian-American artist Labinot Gashi (or GASHI, if you prefer), is entitled 1984, but is not a concept album based on George Orwell’s classic 1984 dystopian novel. However, the opening cut – and title track – does suggest that it’s a concept album nonetheless. It’s a spoken word track in which two young guys discover a time machine, which seemingly transports one of them to a place where he’s greeted by an ominous voice telling them: “Welcome to 1984!”
Listening to the rest of the album we might come to expect that they’ll be other additional spoken word tracks interspersed throughout, possibly a la the classic Miseducation of Lauren Hill. But on the GASHI album that’s the last we hear of our time-travelling buddy (hopefully his fate agreed with him). So the remaining fifteen tracks thus comprise a lengthy and compelling but fairly standard pop album. First (music) track “Don’t Kill Me” may have been intended to segue, as it definitely resembles an ‘80s synth song and even references a hit from that period in the lyrics (Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”). The more mellow “Lies” is similar but gives itself over to a pretty long and pretty amazing guitar solo by the end.
Guitars, in fact, don’t have too much of a presence on this synth-heavy record, although all the ones that do show up are done right: “Interlude”, in fact, might remind one of Carlos Santana’s successful twenty-first century work. The contender for 1984’s best track is definitely “Full Moon”, another synth track with an irresistible beat and tempo, which also revisits the science fiction/fantasy element (“There’s a monster deep inside // There’s a monster on the rise… // I come alive when it’s a full moon”) promised at the beginning of the record. Unfortunately lyrics tend to be a bit standard and even clichéd on a few of the other cuts, particularly the more straightforward love songs such as “Perfume Pillows” (“Girl, I need to know // What’s on your mind // When you’re alone at night”) and “Never Give Up on Me.”
A fairly impressive guest roster appears on 1984 – not necessarily the biggest names, but the right ones. This includes Devault, Diamond Café and Pink Sweat$, along with Rose Gold, who provides nicely contrasting lead vocals on the appropriately-titled “Feels Right.” And as if to comply with the album’s title and (loose) theme, an actual ‘80s icon – Sting – is credited as appearing on the song “Mama” (which, to further the point, shares a title with a 1983 hit by Genesis).
Apart from that, it’s a little bit hard to figure out just what GASHI was trying to convey by titling this album 1984, unless it was just an excuse to throw in that opening spoken-word track. If the whole record was meant to be a tribute to the music of circa 1984, then GASHI is only looking at a small part of the picture, since that year also produced music by guitar-dominant artists like Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen (who also had an album called 1984), ZZ Top and the aforementioned Billy Idol.
Overall, the album will probably remind listeners a bit more of another one-name artist – Seal – who wasn’t around until the ‘90s. Its length of just under an hour might not make this the first album that one will want to hear (or stream) start-to-finish. However, taking the tracks individually, we find nearly all of them to be soulful, sincere and the result of seamless production. It’s hard to say if Big Brother is still watching in 2020, but the majority of GASHI’s 1984 will definitely make him – along with many pop fans – want to listen.