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BERLIN (Buy CDs by this artist)
Pleasure Victim (M.A.O./Enigma) 1982 (Geffen) 1983
Love Life (Geffen) 1984
Count Three & Pray (Geffen) 1986
Best of Berlin 1979-1988 (Geffen) 1989
BIG F
The Big F (fff/Elektra) 1989

Los Angeles' Berlin had been active for several years — an almost totally different lineup issued a 1980 single — before bursting onto the national scene with the impressively slick Pleasure Victim, a seven-song mini-album which commercialized routine synth-rock with singer Terri Nunn's audio pornography. The record's most blatant (and hence, popular) track, "Sex (I'm a ...)," is tasteless and offensive, with crude lyrics and ridiculous moaning. Other than two likably atmospheric tunes ("Masquerade" and "The Metro"), the disc shuffles from bland to inept. (The CD adds a track.)

Berlin serves up more singles-bar smarm on Love Life, which makes a bid for respectability as a techno-dance band. Unfortunately, bassist/singer John Crawford is too shallow a songwriter; at best, Berlin can only manage a polished Mike Howlett-produced noise (Giorgio Moroder co-produced a pair of tracks as well) to glamorize a vapid and depressing view of sex. Pathetic.

Between them, Nunn, Crawford and drummer Rob Brill brought only vocals and a rhythm section to Count Three & Pray. Berlin made their last record with unannotated guitar work by Ted Nugent, Dave Gilmour and Elliot Easton, plus a heap of other session players. (The band ended its existence in 1987, perhaps to make way for Pretty Poison.) While Brill's "Like Flames" is an adequate song with a catchy singalong chorus, Crawford's "Sex Me, Talk Me" is straight from the stunted rut of his attitudes about copulation. Co-written and produced by Moroder for the soundtrack of Top Gun but recycled here, "Take My Breath Away" is a characterless ballad that somehow became a forgettable hit single.

Besides the obvious hits and album tracks, the non-chronological compilation also contains the group's otherwise non-LP debut single, "A Matter of Time."

Although the hard-rocking power trio is carefully swathed in mystery, no one has ever seen Big F bassist/singer John Shreve and ex-Berlin bassist/singer John Crawford in the same room. (Coincidentally, the Big F drummer's first name is Rob.) Despite its studied goth pretensions, The Big F is merely another noisy soldier in the sub-Cult army of '70s metal wannabes, and not an especially skilled one at that. Shreve's unpleasant growl and Mark Christian's derivative guitar demonstrations give the din-o-meter a good push, but one would have to be a pretty indiscriminate and gullible Led Zep fan to think anything of this shuck.

[Ira Robbins]