[…continued from last post]
It was time for a change in the program. The pensive mood of “You Only Left Your Picture” was established by sequenced synth loops and distant explosions of synthetic percussion at random intervals; coalescing into a transitional fill taking the song into its minor key reverie with a series of descending synth licks. Singer Dave Harris’ voice was distant and low in the mix; a ghostly presence in his own recollections. There were several “love lost” ballads on the album, and this was the most atmospheric.
I loved the transition to the third verse Producer Zeus B. Held phased the sound into a tunnel, acoustically as the chorus trailed off. When the fourth verse ended, the same transition was carried into the darker middle eight. Where the mantra of “you left me and you know it” was the sole lyric content. But at the end of that when the time came too circle back to the coda, there was another phasing, accompanied by the biggest synth singularity on the album that rose in pitch for three whole bars.
The effect of this tonal shift was to suggest the clouds of depression parting as the drum fills signaled the pure sunshine of nostalgia as the song’s mood shifted to disperse the self-pity that was the song’s stock-in-trade. Then the closing synth solo was an exercise in elation on this album that had little time for such emotions. This one really lights up my mood with its euphoric playing.
It almost seemed perverse to have a second song title with the phrase “your picture” in a row. [In America, US Arista dramatically re-arranged the album flow] For “Something In Your Picture,” the mood was fully engaged with the current flame and not a case of bittersweet memory. The track had a rhythmic feel suggesting perhaps a callback to the reggae of the 1979 version of the band. Expansive vocal harmonies and call/response backing vocals supported Harris as did the dreamlike synth lines flowing through the mix. And not since “Regatta De Blanc” had I heard percussive vocals chanting “Cha!” in the break for maximum impact and I have to ask “why not!?” The almost psychedelic middle eight had the lyrics syncopating with themselves in multi-part harmony and could have lasted more than eight measures.
Then then levels of technology took a back seat to a funk throwdown for the badass strutting of “It’s Alright.” Talkbox and Zeus B. Held on clavinet syncopating with the bass didn’t need much more than shimmering synth swells to abet the old school groove. The lady was taking leave again but this time Harris had…
…called you up on the telephone,
somebody laughed but you’re all alone,
I’d come around and I’d bust his faceIt’s Alright
For a song built on another breakup, this one really swings. The middle eight was surprisingly joyous but the entire vibe here was full of cocky swagger. Someone might be making moves on the singer’s girl, but he’ll get his. He’s not going down without a fight. Listen below.
The next song segued into the next track. The hi-hats ticked away like a timebomb while the bass ganks jabbed at the listener as the descending drum fills, pitching lower and lower moved onto the dancefloor like a steamroller. The vocoders chanted “White Stuff” on the first two beats of a five-note hook as the synths took up the rest of the melody. Percussive sequencers of metronomic eighth notes echoed the hi-hats. This was a dispassionate, robotic funk as a desensitized Harris recited the lyric like a shell-shocked film maker giving direction to the damaged starlet under his watch. Any humanity remaining was reduced to mechanical contrivance.
Only for fools, your gypsy tongued story
camouflaged truth, enclosed by the future
Playing for the crowd you rise to ovation
and crushing the rose, you smile to the camera
Oooooh Liar [Liar!]White Stuff
The emphasis on the second, whispered “liar” at the end of each verse was an utterly vicious dismissal. “White Stuff [short cut]” was the briefest song on the album but no less memorable for its brevity. The memorable instrumental coda had the synths howling like cats in heat on the fadeout.
Next: …The Climax