It was 1979 and I was working at a record store in Orlando, Florida. One of the joys of being a record store geek in those days was getting promo copies of new albums from the record labels. One of the records that I played a lot that year was the debut album by the Sinceros, The Sound of Sunbathing. I had never heard of the band before, but the colorful cover of a nerdy looking couple and their sunglasses-wearing kids at the beach just screamed “Play Me!” I wasn’t expecting much, but the music turned out to be quite good, a catchy collection of pop songs that fit firmly inside the borders of a genre that was being called “New Wave.”
I often played this album in the record store and invariably a customer would ask me what was playing. Ah yes, those glorious days of “in-store play.” Songs like “Take Me To Your Leader,” “Break Her Heart,” and “Worlds Apart” were underappreciated classics, ones that should have been hits. Lead singer Mark Kjeldsen had a fine voice and had a knack for writing catchy songs. He was backed by a band of crack musicians who could harmonize with the best of them. Their keyboard-laden sweet pop songs very much resembled those of Squeeze, another good band at that time.
I had forgotten about this obscure little jewel of an album until it was rereleased on CD in 2009. So what if it took thirty years to make its digital debut, it was worth the wait! For some reason the CD reissue of The Sound of Sunbathing, which includes three bonus tracks, now comes with an entirely different cover, but you can see the silly original in the booklet that accompanies the package.
The band’s second album, Pet Rock, released in 1981, was actually an even stronger effort. The opening track, “Disappearing,” ranks as one of the very best songs that band ever recorded, a glorious slice of pop goodness that sticks in your head. Once again, it should have been a monster hit, but by the time of this album’s release, the Sinceros seemed hopelessly pigeonholed as a “cute” New Wave band and were never able to break out of that particular musical ghetto. The CD reissue of Pet Rock, which finally materialized last year, also contains a bunch of extra tracks. Most of these songs were what was originally called “2nd Debut,” remixed versions of the songs that ended up on Pet Rock.
And what happened to the Sinceros after those two impressive albums? Well, as so often happens with unsuccessful partnerships, the band and record label soon “parted company” and the band soon broke up. Bass player Ron Francois joined the Eurogliders, drummer Bobbi Irwin became part of Nick Lowe’s touring band, and keyboardist Don Snow joined Squeeze. But lead singer and main songwriter Kjeldsen, arguably the most talented member of the band, pretty much vanished from the music business after 1983. He became a social worker for a few years and later was employed by his father’s vegetable oil business in London. Tragically, he died of AIDS complications in 1992.
Although most people have never even heard of the Sinceros, and their many fine tunes will probably never make their way onto any iPods, two very good albums await the listening pleasure of discerning pop and rock fans out there.