Love Spit Love
It's been three years since the first Love Spit Love album on the now-defunct Imago record label, which released singer Richard Butler from the expectations and constrictions of leading one of the '80s most heralded alternative bands, Psychedelic Furs.
While the Furs only had one Top 40 hit, "Heartbreak Beat," their "Ghost in You," "Love My Way," and "Pretty In Pink" defined the early '80s for many. Even at the Furs' lowest point, Butler always managed to write at least one or two wildly catchy but still "alternative rock" songs per Furs album, and things are no different with Love Spit Love. While there are some throwaways on Trysome Eatone, ("Little Fist" and "Well Well Well" especially) more than half of these songs are worth-the-wait additions to the Butler canon.
The first single and album opener, "Long Long Time" starts with a percolating synthesizer before the barrage of guitars kicks in to a "Heartbreak Beat" anthem track. It's a return for Butler to the best sonics of the Furs. The guitar arpeggios of "It Hurts When I Laugh" also dip back into the Furs Midnight to Midnight era sound. Reminiscient of that decade-old disc's "Angels Don't Cry," "It Hurts When I Laugh" gives Butler's raspy chops ample room to emote at their most effective. As on Love Spit Love's first disc (which featured one song that sounded like it was orchestrated with kazoos), Butler sounds freer these days to experiment with new directions. While the experimentation doesn't work on the lazy "Well Well Well," the industrial bend of "More Than Money" is probably the most modern track Butler has recorded in the '90s and the jazz guitar of "November 5" is, well, loungier than anything else Butler has attempted.
One of Trysome Eatone's best tracks comes in "Fall On Tears," a slow-building anthem akin to "Am I Wrong," the mildly successful single from Love Spit Love's first disc. Richard Fortus' guitar prowess shines throughout this album; his stylistic range is probably the main difference that separates the Love Spit Love sound from that of The Furs. And the personnel that connected the two bands on the last album continues to dwindle. While Tim Butler, Richard's brother and ex-Furs bassist was onboard for the first Love Spit Love disc (the only Furs omission on that disc was guitarist John Ashton), he only contributes one co-written track to this effort, the nostalgic "7 Years." With a new label and a somewhat new band, Trysome Eatone is certainly Richard Butler's best work in seven years.
Paul Carrack is probably not a household name to most, but he is, nevertheless, a household voice. As a singer with Mike & The Mechanics ("The Living Years") and Squeeze ("Tempted"), as well as with '70s band Ace ("How Long") and as a solo artist in the late '80s ("Don't Shed A Tear") his smooth brand of white soul has gotten plenty of radio play. His latest solo album is a collection of easy listening tracks that wouldn't have sounded too out of place under the Mike & The Mechanics umbrella. It's laidback inocuous pop perfect for Lite FM stations and background listening. Two of the songs will sound instantly familiar: to close out the 11-song disc Carrack updates his own "How Long" and offers a sleepy version of "Love Will Keep Us Alive," a Carrack cowritten original which The Eagles scored a hit with during their 1994 comeback.
Carrack will appear tomorrow night, Oct. 24, at Chicago's House of Blues.
The Power Station
Living In Fear
There are two ways you're likely to view the return album by The Power Station and they're mostly dependent on how you feel about singer Robert Palmer: either this album will make you nostalgic for the mid-'80s, or will leave you bored to tears. Not much has changed in the Power Station musical outlook over the past decade, which leaves this CD sounding pretty stale. That lack of forward motion might be overcome if there were any tracks as hard-hitting as the band's first album's "Some Like It Hot" or remake of "Bang a Gong." Instead, Living In Fear listens like a lukewarm groove fest with Palmer doing his typical vocal slides and repeating choruses ad nauseum. For fanatics only.
The Next Voice You Hear: The Best of Jackson Browne
I can't listen to this album without recalling images of high school. At 17, Jackson Browne's Lawyers in Love tour was the second concert I ever saw, at the now dismantled Poplar Creek outdoor music theatre, and I listened to many of the songs on this compilation over and over again for months before and after that show. So it's with a smile and a warm feeling that I returned to the songs on this compilation this past week. Is this truly the best of Jackson Browne? No. This should have been, at the least, a double album — bona fide top 40 hits like "Here Come Those Tears Again," "Lawyers in Love," "Stay/The Load Out," "Boulevard," "That Girl Could Sing," "You're a Friend of Mine" and "America" (with Clarence Clemons) are all inexplicably missing.
What is here?
"Doctor My Eyes," "Late for the Sky," "The Pretender," "Somebody's Baby," "Tender Is The Night," "Running On Empty," "Call it a Loan," "In The Shape of a Heart" and "Lives in the Balance." With two exceptions, this album offers only one representative track from each of Browne's albums. In doing so, it misses a good chunk of his best material, recorded over a string of four albums in the late '70s. Throughout that decade, Browne proved one of the most inciteful songwriters in the country. He was one of the leaders of the "California sound" (along with Warren Zevon and The Eagles) and he had a gift for poetry and melody that made songs like "Doctor My Eyes" and "The Pretender" pop hits despite their "deep" folky roots.
It's been painful to watch Browne's muse decline over the past decade; the melodies muted and the messages grew stale. In fact, 1983's Lawyers in Love is probably the last Browne album that's listenable all the way through. The depth of Browne's departure from vital music is apparent on this collection's title track, a newly recorded faux philosophical stab that rests on a low funky beat and occasional jazz horns.
Better is the other new track, "The Rebel Jesus," a singsong piano ballad that sounds lifted from Browne's mid-70s Pretender era catalogue. Listening to these 15 songs, in the chronological order they appear in here, gives an hour's travelogue of a songwriter's life's work. It's a fine way to rediscover a great artist.