Their 1985 debut album, Rattlesnakes, earned Britain’s Lloyd Cole and the Commotions a reputation as a thinking man’s pop band. With a musical style borrowing heavily from American folkrock, the 24-year-old Cole included numerous literary references in his thoughtful lyrics about love and alienation. But on the band’s second album, Easy Pieces, Cole proves himself too clever for his own good. Although his songs now feature less pretentious references, his poetic devices are often strained. Lost Weekend resorts to such obscure metaphors as “a head full of attitude and ashtray heart on my sleeve, wounded knees.” Despite its melodic charms, the music is often cluttered with pompous string arrangements. Sadly, success seems to have gone to Cole’s head.
PRIVATE BEACH PARTY
Gregory Isaacs (Ras/Attic)
A penchant for Italian suits, gold chains and wearing his hat at a rakish angle has won reggae singer Gregory Isaacs the nickname of Mr. Cool Ruler in his native Jamaica. But Isaacs’ reputation abroad owes more to his seductive crooning style than to his affectations. In Private Beach Party, his first Canadian release, Isaacs exaggerates his vocals with enough cooing, purring and moaning for a pet-food commercial. The
title track is an open sexual invitation to his female listeners, but No Rushings warns of a sexually promiscuous “princess.” And a tender duet with Toronto singer Carlene Davis, Feeling Irie, features such 1960s terms as “blow my mind.” Isaacs poses as a sexual libertine, but with his double standards and outdated attitudes he is simply oldfashioned.
FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS (I.R.S./MCA)
When the English Beat broke up three years ago fans mourned the passing of a frenetic dance band with a political bent. But happily, two dynamic new bands have risen from its ashes: first, General Public, and now Fine Young Cannibals. The latter, created by guitarist Andy Cox and bassist David Steele, is particularly exciting both for its rugged rhythm-and-blues style and the participation of Roland Gift, a former pub singer with a kaleidoscopic vocal range. On the group’s impressive debut album, Gift conveys a dazzling array of emotions, from plaintive urgency on Johnny Come Home to stark melancholy on Funny How Love Is. And the band offers a rollicking horn-powered version of Elvis Presley’s classic ballad Suspicious Minds. But the album’s highlight is the gutsy Blue, with its muted trumpet, taut guitar and pulsing bass. On their first release, Fine Young Cannibals reveal an insatiable musical appetite.
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