Like a widescreen Duran Duran

Rialto Their songs may be karaoke classics in Korea, but to most British pop lovers, Rialto is still the name of the local cinema that morphed into a multiplex, rather than the wonderful band who delivered cinemascopic John Barry meets New Romantic gems a few years back. Their 2001 ‘London’ epic, Night on Earth, yours for a couple of quid, could well be a contender for the album of the decade so far.

Long before The Killers and The Bravery were plundering Eighties acts for their inspiration, Britpop also-rans Rialto were doing it much better, albeit with less commercial results. The band’s 2001 album, Night On Earth, was a close cousin of their self-titled 1998 debut, but with an electronic disco edge influenced by the likes of the Pet Shop Boys, New Order and Duran Duran, as well as Iggy Pop and Bowie.

Led by vocalist/songwriter Louis Eliot, an ex-member of under-achieving glam revivalists Kinky Machine, Rialto were one of the great lost Brit bands of the Nineties. During their career, the group were dogged by bad luck, which, ironically, seemed to suit their image as life’s underdogs and misfits. Despite releasing a clutch of brilliant, epic pop singles that combined the bombast of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with the nerve-shredding drama of Sixties spy movie themes and the theatrical tension of Pulp and the Pet Shop Boys, Rialto faded into obscurity after only two albums.

Eliot is now pursuing a low-key solo career, playing pastoral folk to a small, yet dedicated fan base. For Night On Earth, Eliot created a whole album of melancholic melodramas and cinematic scenarios set in the nocturnal streets of England’s capital city. Dark life, anyone? It’s an album about escapism, night-time antics and losing yourself under the cover of darkness.

First song, London Crawling (geddit?) is atypical of what’s to follow – a 3am drive beneath sodium lights, soundtracked by pulsing synths and lush strings. Weird keyboard noises are all over the album, from the buzzing, Bowie meets Tubeway Army disco electronica of Brilliant Fake and Idiot Twin, to the sleek, streamlined sequencer groove of Drive. On Anyone Out There? Rialto come across like Duran Duran on poppers in a Berlin discotheque – yep, that good. Theatrical tension has always been central to Rialto’s music.

Eliot is a big fan of film score composers Ennio Morricone and John Barry, which is obvious when you listen to the haunting Catherine’s Wheel – imagine Pulp covering the theme tune to Tales Of The Unexpected. Rialto excelled at writing anthems for the downtrodden. The towering ballad Anything Could Happen could be their theme tune. "They tried to kill us off, but this show’s not over," sings Eliot. "We were born to shine and thrill like supernova." Night On Earth shines like a star and is never short of thrilling.

Rialto – Night on Earth 2001 (Eagle)

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One Response to “Like a widescreen Duran Duran”

  1. Beetlebum Says:

    I’ve been a great admirer of Rialto for years and you’re totally right. I never understood why they were so unsuccessful -even some b-sides would have done big hits for me. If you’ve heard the songs from the Girl On A Train EP, will you consider it the greatest EP of the 90’s and the best achievement of a band-morphing-to-80s.

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