Monday, 17 December 2012

D CDs #492: The Icy Touch

(Note: I'm re-posting this piece, which I originally put up in May, so that it's in the right place in the now-official-and-named "D CDs" series).

I'm having to wade through an awful lot of mind-numbing data-handling tasks at work right now, so to keep me sane, I'm branching out into some new music.  I figured I'd take a look a the Rolling Stones Top 500 Albums (their earlier list, not the new one which I might have to actually pay for).

First up, we have this offering from 1983:

I was a bit on the young side during the Eurythmics heyday, about all I caught first time around was "17 Again", which I actually really loved (I still have a CD single of it somewhere).  Since then, the only Lennox/Stewart song anyone ever seems to talk about is "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", which isn't unreasonable, since it's a great song.  It does seem to overshadow everything else they did though.

Which isn't necessarily fair, actually.  The opening track (and third single) on Touch, "Here Comes The Rain Again", is I think the better song.  Indeed, I'd argue that its first three minutes represent the best music Eurythmics ever released as a single.

It's a shame it lasts over five minutes, then.  If there's a problem with Touch overall, it's this: more than a few of the tracks don't overcome their basically repetitive natures.  It might be a bit unfair to single this album out for criticism - New Wave as a genre wasn't exactly known for thrilling compositional deviation.  It's also true that there's sufficient variation between tracks - from funk-tinged "Cool Blue" to calypso-filled "Right By Your Side", to cold ballad "Who's That Girl" - that this issue haunts the album rather than torpedoing it.  All that said, though, I think there's something amiss when there's not a single song on a disc that ends before you want it to.

That gripe out of the way, there's an awful lot to like here.  I've mentioned "Here Comes..." already, but "Right By Your Side" is almost as good, combining guitars, synthesised steel drums, tenor sax, whistles and occasional demented vocal yelping from Lennox to create one of music history's most ridiculously upbeat songs on the need for company during an outbreak of depression.  "Who's That Girl" is perhaps a little too underbaked (musically and lyrically) and occasionally reminiscent of "Sweet Dreams..." but it's still worthwhile for the smooth power of Lennox's vocals.  Even the comparatively unremarkable "The First Cut" - the closest this album comes to a throwaway track - contains a chugging riff that sounds like nothing so much as rhythmic gargling.  There's always something going on here, even if sometimes it's going on too long.

Each song has plenty to recommend it, then.  As a complete work, Touch is a little problematic; it's really too tightly controlled and frosty to be truly enjoyable (the most common feeling the music seems to espouse is "Fuck it, whatever; like I care anyway"), though a lack of direct emotional connection shouldn't automatically be considered a bad thing, and as the album passes into its final third you long for it to go all bug-eyed calypso-mental again, just to give your heart some exercise.  Its final track just about does the job; the seven and a half "Paint a Rumour" combines pseudo-Egyptian synthesised pipes and Krafwerk-style computer beeps to sufficiently powerful effect to be almost worth its runtime.

That said, the album still feels pretty front loaded, though I'm not sure if that's actually the case, or whether I just lack the necessary sang-froid to make it to the end without my soul itching to put something on it can dance to, or at least weep uncontrollably through.

Seven tentacles, I think.

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