New releases in New Zealand, 19 February 1989
The Art of Noise feat. Tom Jones – Kiss
I bought an album by The Art of Noise before the Kiss single was released: In Visible Silence. It’s the one that has their version of Peter Gunn on it, but also – and more importantly to me – Paranoimia. This song was cool because there is a version featuring Max Headroom.
As I said, I had In Visible Silence on LP. I gave it away. I think because I felt embarrassed by it as I entered my grunge phase. This was a mistake because it’s actually a good album. Now, when I say “good” album I mean – “if you like that kind of thing”. A lot of people don’t. Take Eye of the Needle for example. The beat sounds a lot like a squash ball being hit around a court (later joined by a game of table tennis), the xylophone adjacent melody is finished off with a wonderfully distorted lounge singer. I reckon that’s pretty cool, and it creates a mood: somewhere between absurd and sad. Later they sample the racist rantings of white politicians in Apartheid-era South Africa to great effect.
Listening to their first album – Who’s Afraid of the Art of Noise? – feels like listening to a template for Fat Boy Slim.
My obsession with Prince began in that happy place called the Purple Rain album. I missed Around the World and was next aware of Prince with the single Kiss. This song is a pop masterpiece and I went out and bought Parade on cassette. This was 1986 and I was 13. My musical tastes were straightforward, and I expected Parade to sound like Purple Rain. It doesn’t. Nowadays I quite like Parade, but in 1986 I was mortified by the change. I was so shocked I even asked my mother how such a think could happen. How could someone release something so good one time, and something so bad the next? There’s no answer to that of course. It didn’t stop the disappointment. Thankfully there was Sign o’ the Times just around the corner.
This version of Kiss is also good – not as good, of course – but I feel like listening to Prince sing these words and listening to Tom Jones sing them really changes the vibe. I regarded Jones as ancient in 1989 but he was in fact 49 (I am now 46). Still, who wants to hear a 49 year old man sing these lines:
You don’t have to be beautiful
To turn me on
I just need your body, baby
From dusk ’til dawn
Come on, Tom. Dusk until dawn at your age?
The Art of Noise fits into the category of “not as dated as I thought they would be”. Paranoimia reached number six in the New Zealand charts: its highest position anywhere in the world. It’s better in the version not featuring Max Headroom these days (“Max, who?”). Songs like this don’t really exist on the charts anymore. The Miami Vice Theme and Axel-F are other examples of the electronic, pop instrumental being a hit in the 80s. All of them good.
When I listen to She Drives Me Crazy I hear that snare. It goes through the whole song without changing. It relentlessly hits through the intro, through the verse, through the chorus, through the bridge. It gets on my nerves. I never noticed it before in that way. I noticed it as something cool in a cool song in 1989. To a lesser extent the same kind of thing happens in Night of the Living Baseheads. There is a sharp “parp” like a sampled trumpet that goes on and on through most of the song. Irritating. Machines don’t get bored. No human drummer would participate in She Drives Me Crazy.
I’m glad this week happened though because I was beginning to suspect my dislike of every single rap song was maybe a bit racist. So having Public Enemy and Neneh Cherry in one week doing rap properly, and enjoyably makes me realise that the problem wasn’t me; the problem was lots of people attempting rap who really shouldn’t have. Even though Public Enemy’s song has the aforementioned annoying “parp” it’s a great song, and the sampling is fast, assured and pointed. Neneh’s song has the attitude, the great lines, and the accents that paint a picture of a certain kind of girl in late 80s England. The only thing that is strange about her song is how far above the rest of her album it is. Even the follow up single Manchild was a dog let alone the often dire album tracks. How did this one song slip the collar and become so good?
Duran Duran sounds like they are trying to write music for a high class porno. Which is shame because I really like the album before this which featured Notorious and Skin Trade. Luther Vandross? Not my cup of tea. Nor Wet, Wet, Wet. One of my favourite songs is The Whole of the Moon by The Waterboys. That song is a 10/10. This song is also good. This is very high praise coming from me because I cannot stand fiddles. They enrage me. Usually. Not in the hands of The Waterboys it would seem.
- The Art of Noise feat. Tom Jones – Kiss (8/10)
- Wet, Wet, Wet – Temptation (2/10)
- Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy (6/10)
- Luther Vandross – Any Love (4/10)
- Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance (9/10)
- Public Enemy – Night of the Living Baseheads (8/10)
- The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues (8/10)
- Robert Palmer – She Makes My Day (6/10)
- Duran Duran – All She Wants Is (2/10)