Rational Youth is a Canadian new wave synthpop band, primarily active between 1981 and 1986.
Rational Youth was formed in 1981 in Montreal, Quebec, by synthesizer players Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn, both of whom idolized the German synth-pop pioneers Kraftwerk. The band is considered to be one of Canada's first synth-pop groups.
Howe's music career had commenced as a drummer, initially as a singer and drummer for Montreal punk band The Normals. Howe was later a drummer and singer in Montreal band Heaven Seventeen (not to be confused with England's Heaven 17), considered to be one of the first punk bands to use synthesizers. One of Heaven Seventeen's keyboard players was Ivan Doroschuk, who later formed Men Without Hats. Howe also later joined Men Without Hats, as a guitarist, prior to forming Rational Youth with Vorn.
The band was formed in the summer of 1981 by Howe and Vorn, joined by keyboardist Mario Spezza and later joined by keyboardist Kevin Komoda. The band's second professional engagement was opening for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, in Montreal.
The band recorded their first single and album (Cold War Night Life) for YUL Records, an independent label established by Marc Demouy, a record importer and retailer, and Pat Deserio. Dumouy also became the band's manager. The album was issued in early 1982, and was the first all-synth pop release in Canada. It became one of the biggest selling Canadian independent albums at the time.
Vorn left the band at the beginning of 1983, to resume communication studies at university. Following Vorn's departure, Tracy Howe was signed as a solo artist to Capitol Records. The releases for Capitol were under the Rational Youth name, with a 1983 eponymous EP featuring what was to be the touring band of Howe, Kevin Komoda, Denis Duran and Angel Calvo. Following the release of the EP and immediately prior to the commencement of a national promotional tour, Komoda, Duran and Calvo all left the band, asserted to be based on concerns as to the level of full-time commitment. Howe, left with the band name but no band, did not form another band to tour in support of the EP.
A subsequent album, Heredity was released in 1985 under the Rational Youth name, though it was generally regarded as a Tracy Howe solo project, accompanied by studio musicians. The decision to release the album under the Rational Youth name was that of the record company, Capitol Records, though Howe did not oppose the decision. The record, while successful, is viewed as having created a different audience for Rational Youth, confusing older fans. Howe put a band together and toured in support of the album during 1985 and 1986.
Howe placed the band on "indefinite hiatus" in February 1986. However, continued interest in the band resulted in Cold War Night Life being reissued on compact disc in 1997. This in turn led to a 1997 reunion concert with Howe and Vorn in Lund, Sweden.
In 1999, Rational Youth, with a new lineup of original frontman Howe and new keyboard players Jean-Claude Cutz and Dave Rout, released its first album after fourteen years, To the Goddess Electricity. Cutz and Rout had been members of techno-industrial band Digital Poodle.
Rational Youth toured throughout Scandinavia over the next two years, playing its final concert on November 3, 2001, at the Tinitus Festival in Stockholm, Sweden.
Original members Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn came together again in 2009, at the initiative of Marc Dumouy, recording a new version of their 1982 hit "Dancing On The Berlin Wall" in honour of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Wall. In 2010, the recording was issued by YUL Records as a CD EP. In 2011, another CD EP was released, City Of Night /Cite Phosphore, being remixed versions of earlier recordings. In 2012, producer Marc Demouy was able to reunite the original Rational Youth trio of Howe, Vorn and Kevin Komoda, which resulted in the 2012 release of the CD EP Coboloid Race /I Want To See The Light 30th Anniversary Edition. The release included newly discovered alternate mixes from the original 1981 sessions.
Vorn earned a doctorate in communication studies at the Université du Québec à Montréal, and is a full professor in the Department of Studio Arts at Concordia University. He has been active in the field of robotic art since 1992.
- "I Want to See the Light/Coboloid Race" (12", 1981)
- "Cité Phosphore" (7", 1982)
- "City of Night" (12", 1982)
- "Saturdays in Silesia" (7"/12", 1982)
- "In Your Eyes" (7"/12", 1983)
- "Dancing on the Berlin Wall" (Dutch 12", 1984; unauthorised extended edit)
- "No More and No Less" (7"/12", 1985) - hit No. 88 on the RPM Canadian charts
- "Call Me" (7"/12", 1985)
- "Bang On" (7"/12", 1985) - hit No. 91 in the RPM Canadian charts
- "Malade" (7", 1985)
- 3 Remixes For The New Cold War (EP, 1998)
- "Everything Is Vapour/Money And Blood" (CD single, 1999)
- Cold War Night Life (album, 1982; CD release 1997)
- Rational Youth (EP, 1983)
- Heredity (album, 1985)
- To the Goddess Electricity (album, 1999)
- Dancing On The Berlin Wall (CD EP, 2010)
- City Of Night /Cite Phosphore (CD EP, 2011)
- Coboloid Race / I Want To See The Light 30th Anniversary Edition (CD EP, 2012)
- Total Rational! (unauthorised Dutch compilation CD, 1994)
- All Our Saturdays (1981-1986) (compilation CD, 1999)
- Early Singles (CD box, 2000)
- The 20th Anniversary Collection (compilation CD, 2001)