Platinum Blonde is back, but don’t call it a reunion. In reality, it’s more like the band has simply taken a finger off of the pause button with the release of its new album Now & Never.
With four albums that have collectively gone Platinum seven times over and garnered multiple Juno Award nominations, along with an induction into the Music and Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame, it’s easy to wonder what else was there is for Platinum Blonde to accomplish? As it turns out, quite a lot.
“There’s been no resting on the laurels of the past successes,” says frontman Mark Holmes. “I appreciate every last thing I’ve got, but you have to embrace what’s coming towards you. The golden age is forever, it’s right now.”
Indeed, the re-ignition of the band has been a very long time coming. It wasn’t for lack of demand – the appetite for the signature new wave rock sound that swept up throngs of fans has hardly waned since the boys pressed pause in 1991.
As the years passed the band became somewhat of a cult mystery. When electronic dance tastemakers Crystal Castles teamed with Robert Smith of The Cure in 2010 to record a cover version of Platinum Blonde’s “Not In Love” an entire new generation of fans began clamoring to discover the band’s music.
For Holmes, though, there would be no rushing into any new touring without fresh music. This conviction lead to dismissing numerous offers to cash in by performing on the “greatest hits” concert circuit.
“We were not going to tour unless there was a new record,” declares Holmes with unshakeable certainty. “You can’t stop evolving. You’ve got to stay current, you can’t limit yourself.”
If his assertions are the mission statement of the band, then the proof has always been in the music.
In January 1983, at the beginning of a decade where pop music was often adrift in flash and kitsch, the Toronto-based outfit consisting of Holmes, Sergio Galli (guitar), and Chris Steffler (drums) emerged from the club scene with a more substantial offering. At the core of their unremittingly danceable new wave influence were three musically fluent artists who had something relevant to say.
Accolade for the band came fast and furiously. In autumn 1983 the group debuted Six Track Attack – an EP washed with crisp, slinky guitar and synth along with punchy rhythms. The release fuelled such an enormous amount of hype for the band that it charted at #39 – an unprecedented feat for the era.
Instantly, Platinum Blonde became one of the biggest commodities of the burgeoning new wave landscape.
Six Track Attack became the ground on which the triple-Platinum selling LP Standing In The Dark was built. Before the close of 1984 the band had invaded radio airwaves with four hit singles – “Doesn’t Really Matter”, “Standing In The Dark”, “Sad Sad Rain”, and “Not In Love”.
As MTV and MuchMusic took their nascent first steps into pop culture in the mid-80s, Platinum Blonde experimented with the visual aesthetic of its music. Already heralded as having a uniquely bold style, the music videos for “Standing In The Dark” and “Doesn’t Really Matter” added an innovative vision to the singles. High rotation on MuchMusic took the band from a radio sensation to a television staple standing on the edge of the newest music platform, and dominating it.
In 1985, the release of the follow-up album Alien Shores saw Platinum Blonde expand more broadly. With the addition of bassist and keyboardist Kenny MacLean, the band became a full fledged four-piece. The lead single “Crying Over You” peaked at #1 on the charts, helping propel the release to go Platinum five times over.
By the time their third album Contact was released 1988, the evolution of Platinum Blonde was beginning to pull the band in a new direction, with each member beginning to branch into the waters of solo projects. After their 1990 album Yeah Yeah Yeah the band felt compelled to explore these newly emerging creative avenues in separate ways.
Since that parting, there’s been little time for the group to wax nostalgic as they continued to enjoy success with a number of their respective solo efforts. Never one to remain idle, Holmes founded the Mod Club which has become a paragon of the Toronto club scene. He remained close to his former bandmates, leaving the door for future collaboration wide open.
The impetus for a Platinum Blonde renaissance came in the form of bassist Kenny MacLean who playfully prodded Holmes to get the band back together. After a series of one-off shows in the early 2000s it seemed like the time for a full-blown revival was ripe.
In 2008, while in the middle of navigating the prospect of reuniting, MacLean suddenly suffered a fatal heart attack in his recording studio. The sudden passing of their bandmate left Holmes and Galli stunned and grief-stricken, temporarily derailing the plans to record new material.
To Holmes, the memory of their dear friend and bandmate had an enormous impact on the new life Platinum Blonde has taken. “He left this world on a positive note, that energy is in everything we do now.”
Holmes and Galli enlisted the expertise of bassist Rob Laidlaw and drummer Dan Todd to round out the reinvigorated lineup. They teamed with producer and engineer Murray Daigle and immediately it was apparent that things were finally falling into place.
“When we got back together it really felt like no time had passed,” says Holmes. “It’s all fresh, and it all came together perfectly.”
The panache and passionate soul of Platinum Blonde’s music is vivid in the 10 tracks that comprise Now & Never. A finely wrought mélange of crisp rock and sultry electro-pop, the leading single “Beautiful” entwines highly evolved strings and guitar work over an intense beat that is capable of holding any dance floor captive. Throughout its entirety, seemingly contradictory rock and dance influences melt together seamlessly.
Holmes credits his métier as a DJ for informing the fresh spirit of new Platinum Blonde material, “Its bound to influence the music. As a producer and DJ, we are the ones at the very edge of music movements. I live for the future. All the bands that I was doing remixes for lately seem to sound like Platinum Blonde. So I thought it might be the right time for a dose of the real thing”.
That sentiment of forward thinking spills directly into tracks like “From Here” where Holmes belts the line “…time for me to be a thousand years from here.” It’s a call for freedom from outdated thinking, he says, in a world that doesn’t always bear a lot of hope for the future.
“To be free is a right everybody has,” he explains. “It’s a song of independence, and about facing the fear of being on your own.”
Across time, the one constant of Platinum Blonde has always been an unquenchable yen to evolve. With Now & Never, the band that’s made a career of forging it’s own path continues to roam free.