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June 12, 1984 - Image 11

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Michigan Daily, 1984-06-12

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, June 12, 1984 - Page 11

Records
vaseline/ but all the rushes look the
same") that did nothing to the story,
and just sound pretentious.
Much of the lyricism is the outright slop-
py, full of obscure symbolism ("don't
point you raygun at mme/I just might
explode") and silly techo-jargon
("Keith talked is alphanumerals"). His
writing is far more callow than clever,
and will more than likely alienate
listeners instead of amusing them.
Dolby's voice hasn't improved much
either. It's a little stronger, but still
lacking in color or range. When he tries
to stretch a phrase out for emotion, his
voice tends to literally fade into the
Thomas Dolby-The Flat background.
Earth (EMI) Musically, the album is much better.
Dolby can coax as many exotic shading
Thomas Dolby's first album, The out of a synthesizer as can Vangelis or
Golden Age of Wireless is not a record Kitaro can even if his arrangements
that would have led anyone to mistake are less ambitious. "Mulu The Rain
him for a consumate artist, but it did Forest", a nocturnal painting of a
show him to be an ingenius craftsman Tasmanian jungle, is quite effective.
with a knack for electronics and with The eeriely distorted woodwinds, half
some signs of potential as a nifty pop- buried percussion, and ghostly synth
synth performer. His follow-up record, overdubs have a unsettling haunting
The Flat Earth confirms his whiz kid quality. Yet the pieces have a certain,
technical abilities, but just as clearly patchwork dryness to them. They sound
indicates that he lacks the essentials for as if they were more than likely
artistry. meticulously constructed instead of
Dolby tries to adopt the guise of a composed.
serious songwriter/singer, but his The production is more refined than
abilities fall way short of his the last album, and may also be part of
aspirations. Character sketches like its problem. The Flat Earth is such a
"Dissidents" and "White City" lack smoothly polished bit of studio
any convincing insight to bring people tinkering it ends up being colorless.
within them alive. His tragic romance There are plenty of interesting tex-
in "Screen Kiss" is ruined by vacuous tures, sound effects, and synth hooks
imagery, and repeated use of film throughout, but they all kind of wash
references ("blue filter lens in a pool of out in the final mix. I've played this

album a good dozen times, and still audience with a condescension that is
can't recall one single melody. embarrasing to listen to.
The Flat Earth has many of the Watch Out! is like some relic of the
qualities of Brian Eno's ambient recor- '60s, an album full of flower child
dings-nice aural wallpaper that fades idealism amidst folky trappings that
from memory as soon as it's over. has little connection to the real world.
-Byron Bull "The Meek Are Getting Ready" and the
title song are unsophisticated, predic-
table realities against ye olde military-
industrial complex. Sadly, Near really
believes that all we have to do is get
together and we can take down the big
guys and make the world safe for
children and puppies and ... give me a
break.

Holly Near-Watch Out!
(Redwood)
Holly Near has been around now for
something like ten years and eight
albums, and has yet to approach any
sort of wide critical or commercial ac-
ceptance. Watch Out! is not a record
that will change any of that.
Her commercial inviability is
generally attributed to her
feminist/lesbian/political activist base,
but there's a much more readily ap-
parent reason: Near is simply not a
very good songwriter. Like any
flagrant ideologue, Near is incapable
of subtlety, she panders to her ready

The obligatory celebrations of
womanhood aren't any better. One
ballad, "Step It Out, Sally" typifies the
lot with its stanza of, "Women must not
be bought or sold./We will choose our
lovers./We'll live our own lives."
Thanks for pointing that out Holly. The
only songs that don't outright annoy are
the little love songs and bittersweet
reminiscences. Their undisguised sen-
timent would be appealing, if Near
could only articulate them with a little
freshness.
Near's one true assef is her voice, a
gorgeous soprano that regrettably is
buried in a muddle of forgettable folk-
rock nonmelodies. If Near took up'rein-
terpreting legitimate folk standards
she could establish a legitimate
careeer. Too bad she squanders her one
true ability on material that would be
more appropriate on Xeroxed pam-.
phlets for a special interest group.
-Byron Bull

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