Slow Children – Mad About Town | 1982 – 3.5
(…continued from last post)
When I got the debut US LP by Slow Children in the spring of 1982, I really enjoyed it and was looking forward to their next outing. Little did I know that it would be in the stores in as little as 5-6 months! Even by the then-prevalent Rock Bylaws, pointing to an album per year as normative, this seemed to point to an impossibly fecund work ethic. It was on my birthday in the fall of 1982 when, as usual, I was hitting my favorite stores to buy the presents I really wanted. I was stopping in at Retro Records and I saw “Mad About Town” and bought it that day along with other classics like the fourth peter gabriel album and Altered Images “Pinky Blue.”
I’ve seen the cover referred to by some as having Stevie Nicks qualities by people obviously not familiar with Jean Cocteau’s “La Belle et la Bête.” [add adjacent image] From what I know now, the blindingly fast followup was undoubtedly down to the fact that their debut album had been recorded far earlier than the 1982 date of its US issue. So the band had been moving ahead on their career path with the same Shear/Hague production team that had made the first album such a great spin. The only difference was the band picking up Dave Scheff of Translator in the drummer’s seat.
The opening “One More Trauma” showed that the act had been honing their attack to encompass greater sophistication in their recording. True, Pal Shazar was still making her pixilated delivery her own musical footprint, and her lyrics were still nervy, angst-filled bouquets of more thorns than roses. But her topline vocal melodies now had BV overdubs sporting impressive countermelodies, more smoothly sung than we’d heard previously. The vibe of the production was still nice and chewy with twangy guitars offset by lowing synths and plaintive string synths. The bass line by Hague deftly stepping though the openings in the uncluttered sound showed how together that this team was.
New wrinkles were coming fast and furious as “Late Night Transatlantic” opened with strummed acoustic guitars; a first for this band. Drummer Scheff’s introductory fills got the song rolling off of its starting blocks effectively and the complex web of vocal harmonies showed that this band were taking a half step away from the more contrived New Wave styling of yore to embrace a slightly more classic pop sound. The rhythmic delivery of Ms. Shazar’s intriguing lyrics featured Andrew Chinich adding his backing vocal on the offbeat for a vibrant effect. There are always so many lyrics stuffed into these songs that its a testament to the caliber of the arrangements that never seem top heavy.
The groove and swing of “Unplugging the Vacuum” was less defiantly stiff as the band’s debut album had been. The guitar and organ in the coda swelled to form a propiulsive groove with the drums of Mr. Scheff eventually loosening their grip to add contrapuntal fills as the song’s climax came and the vibe took a turn for the dubby before its cold ending.
Next: …Vacillation Boulevard