“Only You” was one of the three singles pulled from the album, and the bright open guitar chords that Mark Gane unleashed to fly like a shower of sparks over the dense, busy rhythms of Mike Sloski on drums and David Pilch on bass. There was a subtle reggae skank at work in the song’s rhythmic syncopation. Vocalist Martha Johnson emoted more vigorously than her usual reserved self. Hearing her full-throated growling as the song climaxed was an unusual pleasure for this listener.
The production on this album was helmed by David Lord, instead of the more familiar Daniel Lanois, who had from 1981 to 1984, made a three albums with M+M. One suspects that the band were familiar with Lord’s production of the fourth Peter Gabriel album in 1982. The last good one.The band were interested in moving in some of the same waters that Gabriel had been swimming in during his white-hot ’80-’82 period. The interest in tribal rhythms and slow, heavy atmospheres manifested brilliantly with “By The Waters Of Babylon.” The song was dominated by the Indian rhythms that Mark Gane’s rhythm loop created in the soundscape. The arid tablas created an enclosed space where the horizon was always out of reach as Gane’s very Fripp-like sustained guitar chords navigated a way up and out of the encircling veldt. The appearance of Tony Levin’s Chapman Stick [he was in the area laying down tracks for “So”] did little to deter associations with the Gabriel vibe, but the fact remains; “By The Waters Of Babylon” remains a much stronger song than what Gabriel was offering at the same time.
“Song In My Head” was an appealing pop moment in the album’s critical side two, track one pole position. The Yogi Horton/Tinker Barfield rhythm section had been noticed when they provided the viscous grooves for “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” but they were put to use here to create one of the few festive vibes present on the album. The juxtaposition of the ambivalent, I-don’t-need-him lyrics and the playful, even frisky tone of the music created some intriguing dissonance that lurked below the bright surfaces of this single.
The next two songs would provide the peak of intensity for the album. “Don’t Jump The Gun” was a musical examination of the disturbing Bernard Goetz phenomenon of the time. We’ve got bigger problems now, but Gane’s tightly coiled guitar vacillated between rhythmic bursts of grinding chords and acidic loops of furious 16th notes that glinted like razors amid the dense, afrobeat percussion.
Next: …Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes