Before there was Garbage and No Doubt,
Terri Nunn and Berlin proved that girl-fronted synthpop could be sexy, edgy
and fun. The band made its biggest chart impact with its theme from Top
Gun (“Take My Breath Away”) but also scored hits from its regular LPs
(“The Metro,” “No More Words”).
It’s been 16 years since the last Berlin album, but Nunn is back, apparently no worse for wear, with a new band and new disc and 11 upbeat synthesizer backed pop songs. The provocatively titled Voyeur (which only occasionally lives up to its racy name in terms of theme) opens with “Blink of an Eye,” a swirling, gallop of a song that echoes the “reciting” lyrics of Savage Garden’s hit “I Want You” and also adds a hint of gospel backups. “Shiny” follows, with a cool sheen of percussion and oscillating sound, and then comes the faux strings of the introspective ballad “Lost My Mind.”
While there’s not much here that has quite the bite of the band’s underground breakthrough hit “Sex (I’m a…),” Nunn does make make a comparison between shooting up and sex in “Drug,” and pairs up with former Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan to pen the quietly dangerous song about lusting after a rock star, “Sacred and Profane.”
Nunn stretches the most on “To A King,” a smart examination of love and longing. She asks of another woman who “owns” the man she loves:
“This guy is at your command
simple, dull and slow
is that what you think of your man?
well he, in this painting that I made of him
he has a beautiful face…
how could I see your lover this way
to you he’s worth hardly a second glance…
but you still have the chance to keep the best of everything
that’s what he is to me
’cause when you look into his eyes
you make him cry.”
“With a Touch,” sounds very ‘80s, with percussive synthesizer lines and echoing sound effects; likewise “Stranger on the Bus.” Voyeur officially ends with the slowly building ballad “Stronger Than Steel,” but includes a hidden bonus track, a live Spanish guitar rich run-through of Berlin’s classic “Pleasure Victim.”
There’s nothing on Voyeur that’s very fresh or groundbreaking, but it’s a comfortable album and several of its tracks would fit in easily between the latest Garbage and No Doubt singles.
Seven and the Sun
Back to the Innocence
Seven and the Sun offers the same kind of upbeat mid-tempo vocal rock that Pat McGee Band, Evan and Jaron and Blessid Union of Souls have scored hits with. And on “Black & Blue,” they mine the same tight-riffed rhyme-pop that put Tal Bachman on the charts.
Back to the Innocence opens with its most infectious track, “Jump (The Velvet Rope)” which drives along on a funky backbeat and easy strumming guitar as singer Seven half sings, half raps a positive song about always striving to reach the next level:
“There ain’t a rope that can hold us
nothing keps us down
there ain’t a rope that can bind us
we’re gonna jump up off the ground.”
That’s followed by the mellow, Eastern-tinged anthem “Where Do You Go From Here” and the soulful Blessid Union-esque “Walk Along With Me” that hides some reggae dubs in the background. On “Don’t Ask Me Why,” the band slips into a classic ‘60s rhythm and Seven’s lilting falsettos bring to mind the late Roy Orbison, and on the closer, “Happy in Your Misery,” the band goes even farther into the classic past, eliciting a jazzy club feel with strings and smooth vocal slides.
Back to the Innocence offers an enjoyable listen that never jars, but never sends you off to bored sleep either.