This record could not be more 80s if it was wearing aFrankie Goes To Hollywood t-shirt while sipping awhite wine cocktail sat in a wine bar idly flickingthrough a copy of The Face. Unfortunately the 1980srevisited here is not the grainy kitchen sink angst of theThe Smiths or even the bright pop tones of StockAitken and Waterman. No, it’s far worse than that. Thisis a rehash of the awful jazz-lite music of such acts asSade, Matt Bianco and Working Week. Akind of retro fake jazz, full of shape throwing posers inpin striped trousers with no fire in their souls. Ithought this kind of music died when they stoppedmanufacturing Ford Escorts.
The slap bass and faux Chic guitars of TwlightWorld set the tone for much of the record. Storm Gordon’svocals are airy and polite, the lyrics sweetly sung but thewhole thing is so dreadfully dull. Lost On You throws a fewsquawking dub effects into the mix but they jar with theslick backing track. If this wasn’t painful enough, asaxophone then bleeds its awful tones across the track. Iguess I should declare that I have always had an issue withsaxophones. To my ears they have always sounded like thedevil breaking wind. There are saxes all over thisrecord.
Family Way starts pleasantly enough; an acoustic guitarand those sugar sweet vocals. Then the bongos arrive andthe whole thing goes down hill quicker than elephant on asledge. It reaches a nadir when the sax parps up. The songsare drowned in a quagmire of dated production. The bass and piano of Rocking Stone sounds like EverythingBut The Girl before Todd Terry remixed them backto life. The opening minute and a half of Cherry BlossomRain offers up a brief glimpse of hope: raindrop pianonotes trickle slowly down as Storm Gordon’s voice finds thepain in the silences. Then the band kick in, a wah wahguitar line shouts loudly above the backing, bongos and -yes – that saxophone again.
Then the band commit an act of butchery that would havemade Sweeney Todd smile: they take Prince‘s I WishYou Heaven, bleach out the funk – and turn it into a nurseryrhyme. It makes Simple Minds‘ take on Sign Of TheTimes sound like a work of genius. Really, it’s likegetting a five-year-old child to try and paint the SistineChapel ceiling. Imagine a wedding band comprised of off-duty priests and you get some idea of the lack of sex orswing involved.
On Comfort Of Strangers Beth Orton‘s songs havebeen given room to roam, resulting in a fragile and bruisedcollection. It’s a shame that Storm Gordon didn’t take asimilar approach with the material here. When the songs areallowed to escape from the stylistic straightjacket theyprove that beauty lurks beneath the surface. There is anundeniable graceful bleakness to Carrion Crow: a lone cellosends out mournful fragments of melody to tint the whispersof acoustic guitar. The lyric exposes the base nature ofdesire and the strength of the sexual instinct. It iswonderfully played and haunting.
If you spend your weekends polishing your vintage 80scar and ironing your Farah slacks then this will be heavenin a CD box. If you have better things to do with yourtime, like picking up litter, then avoid.