Like the Velvet Underground before them whose seminal debut The Velvet Underground and Nico launched a thousand bands, Kraftwerk must have launched a thousand synth acts. One of them was Montreal’s Rational Youth.
The band was formed in 1981 by Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn. Howe has been part of several new wave bands such as the Normals, Heaven 17 (not the British band) and an early incarnation of Men Without Hats. Both Howe and Vorn idealized Kraftwerk and, after the 1981 release of Computer World, the duo started their own electronic group and christened it Rational Youth. Soon after, they released their first single, "Coboloid Race," on indie label YUL. It was a fabulous slice of cold synths, icy vocals and a metronome beat.
Listen to "Coboloid Race":
That track laid the groundwork for Rational Youth's first LP, 1982’s Cold War Night Life. The album stepped away from the coolness of the band's debut single, and Howe and Vorn infused the music with a liveliness and warmth. The album spawned two dance 12” singles, "Saturdays in Silesia" and "City of Night," plus "Dancing on the Berlin Wall," which became a cult favourite in Europe.
Listen to "City of Night":
Listen to "Dancing on the Berlin Wall":
During the recording of the LP, Rational Youth became a trio with the arrival of synthesist Kevin Komoda. Cold War Night Life went on to become one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums of the 1980s and saw a release in Europe, where it was also a success.
At the end of 1982, Bill Vorn left the band to resume communications studies at the Université du Québec, and to conduct research and development in robotics. The band was never the same after Vorn left. Denis Duran and Angel Calvo joined the group and toured across Canada, but the four band members never reached the creative zenith of the original trio. This lineup was disbanded in 1983.
The year 1984 saw the release of Heredity, but the album was more of a Howe solo project and, after tiring of the music industry and other issues, he put Rational Youth on hold indefinitely in 1986.
After the release of Cold War Night Life in 1997, Howe and Vorn reunited for a live concert in Sweden and, more recently, Komoda returned to the ranks in 2011. The trio has released new remixes and new versions of Cold War Night Life tracks "Dancing on the Berlin Wall," "City of Night" and "Coboloid Race," once again on their original label, YUL Records.
Listen to "City of Night the Remix 2011" (Max Julien Thunderdome radio edit):
on Jun 25, 2012