The Parachute Club’s 1984 second record is an artifact of social consciousness, pride, and acceptance.
Every time I listen to an album from the 1980s that I never listened to in the 1980s, I think to myself, “Wow, that sounds so 1980s.” This not-so-uncommon phenomenon most recently happened with At the Feet of the Moon, the 1984 sophomore album from the Parachute Club. It’s a record indelibly linked to its decade, thanks to its production style and the Toronto-based collective’s penchant for salsa, soca, and reggae. But there’s more reason than nostalgic shits and giggles to revisit At the Feet of the Moon in its thirty-fifth anniversary year. Years before it was commonplace for young LGBTQ people to fully embrace and celebrate themselves — a time when the commodification and commercialization of a gay pride festival would have been an impossibility — the Parachute Club was making bold, beautiful social pronouncements about inclusivity, and equity that had the power to make us laugh, make us dance, and make us cry.
To start, let’s get the big rainbow-coloured elephant out of the room as quick as possible: this is not the record with “Rise Up” on it; the Parachute Club’s breakthrough single is from At the Feet of the Moon’s predecessor, their 1983 self-titled, Daniel Lanois-produced debut. And while no one song on At the Feet of the Moon comes close to “Rise Up”’s iconoclastic, anthemic status, the more time I spend with this record, the more I realize that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Save for the mystically infectious title track (which peaked at 11), none of its singles made a dent on the Canadian charts. And yet, the eight songs on At the Feet of the Moon are far better together than when standing apart and make for a solidly compelling — if not slightly dated sounding — record.
In contrast to “Rise Up”, the socially-positive party of a pop song that kicked off their debut, the Parachute Club went with a more subdued, yet no less potent lead with “At the Feet of the Moon”. The song’s spiritual rhythms pair perfectly with lead vocalist Lorraine Segato’s sensual delivery for what in my estimation is the band’s best song ever. The Parachute Club’s undeniable strength lies in the power of their songwriting. They were a band that understood what it meant to be in service to their music, often welcoming poet and unofficial band member Lynne Fernie to write poignant, pointed lyrics like “Sexual Intelligence”, a song about repressed desires and the struggle to hide one’s otherness while trying to conform with societal expectations. In lesser hands, translating the story of the song’s protagonists into verse may have come across as didactic heavy-handedness. Fernie finds the right balance, blending the song’s narrative arc with the Parachute Club’s musicality. “Innuendo” similarly treads serious subject matter (“I don’t know what you want / Why are you staring at me? / What do those eyes mean?”) while delivering a powerful musical performance. Band member Julie Masi takes the lead, commanding Segato and Fernie’s lyrics with agency and authority.
The world-beat rhythms of “Freedom Song” find the Parachute Club in more familiar territory, a place where they feel comfortable and not at all patronizing; a feat in itself given how, in hindsight, many of their contemporaries made fools of themselves appropriating musical styles from outside North America. Still At the Feet of the Moon didn’t get out of the 80s completely unscathed; “Act of an Innocent” smacks a little too much of “what-does-this-button-do?” synth experimentation to bear repeated listens. That’s a sin that can easily be forgiven, as At the Feet of the Moon’s lasting impression is of a band at the precipice of something greater than itself, and as an artifact of social consciousness, pride, and acceptance that deserves recognition.