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The failed single, “It Pays To Belong” added the acme of glossy Pop to the album, which would careen all over the road in a potentially fatal mixture of genres during the course of its playback. I didn’t have a problem with this conceit since each and every song was something of an artistic tour-de-force. This is an album I can easily listen to on repeat as it moves from strength to strength. I cite this single’s failure as a case of pearls before swine.
This song was like a glorious multi-layer cake of the finest quality fondant icing that you could simply not get enough of. Crescendo after crescendo conspiring to lift the listener heavenward on the interplay of the brass and strings. It was my favorite single of 1988 and the version on the album was a minute longer than the 4:45 single edit. The coda of the album version had the brass buildups into their staccato riff as the rest of the track dropped out being fairly breathtaking.
The tough New Jack Swing of “Mercy, Pity, Peace, And Love” revisited the style of much of the previous album, but the execution and arrangement here was worlds superior to all of “She Was Only A Grocer’s Daughter.” Producer Leon F. Sylvers III made the band sound far more committed in their performance. Rhythmically, this really came out swinging with vibrant bass and drumming. The fierce verve of the band was matched by the delivery of Dr. Roberts and the Kick Horns. Everyone was biting deep into the neck of this song and taking no prisoners. Listening now, I can’t help but think that the 3:43 running time was edited down brutally to fit everything onto an LP back then. It faded out with the hint of unfinished business.
The CD edition of “Whoops! There Goes The Neighbourhood” had three bonus tracks in most territories where it was for sale, with the most intriguing of them being the extended remix of “Squaresville.” This suggested that the other Stephen Hague-produced track on the album had been ear-marked as single material up front and maybe the poor showing of the first two singles prompted a re-think that saw “Wait!” added to the running order? But “Squaresville” was such an amazing song that it was too complex and accomplished to sit comfortably as single material.
I absolutely loved how it started cold, on the “one” with a chorused Dr. Robert speaking the title once over an already impressive salvo of drumming from Tony Kiley. His playing here was kinetic and accomplished in this powerful Soul-Jazz cut that put the rhythm up front with washes of strings and horns kicking into the tough mix. The interplay of Mick Anker’s aggressive bass playing fed off of the energy that Kiley was putting down, and each in turn spurred one another on to greater intensity.
For being the product of Stephen Hague, the relative lack of prominent synths or drum machine, definitely marks this one as being outside of his normal wheelhouse. The song represented such a fevered peak in the already impressive album, that it made sense as the lead off track on side two of the LP; even if it didn’t get released as a single, it served to really make an impact after an already impressive side one.
The extended coda that made up the 75 seconds of the cut managed to fade out the instrumentation until it came down to a call-and-response Free Jazz battle between the drums and sax; with Kiley really sticking the knife in on the drums but with the sax ultimately winning as the last strangulated riffs effortlessly segued into the next, amazing song.
If any fans had been paying attention, they would have noticed that the liner notes for the previous two Blow Monkeys albums created a triptych of Dr. Robert’s faith in the indicia. Here was the wording as it appeared on “Animal Magic.”
The next album upped the theological ante with the following quote.
“Come On Down” had no ambiguities as it could have been called “Well That About Wraps It Up For God” if Dr. Robert had a serious Douglas Adams bent. The jaunty tune was led by a combination of swaggering horns and sweet strings, making it of a similar piece to James Brown’s early 70s cover of Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk” while aiming for something ultimately smoother in tone. Giving the irreverent lyrics an extra generous dosage of irony.
So the liner notes on “Whoops!” say this concluding time: …To Buddha and God, “Come on down!” This had shaped up as being the most accomplished Blow Monkeys album yet. Matching rock solid and diverse performances and production with the best set of songs yet from Dr. Robert’s pen. Could they keep it up into the home stretch?
Next: …Immigrant Song