|Tom Robinson Loves Mary Lynne|
VOICE - January 1981
Robinson and Burt placed ads and held mass auditions for lead guitarist and drummer, found young Stevie B and Derek "The Menace" Quinton, lifted the name "Sector 27" (for its "neutrality") from an Allen Ginsberg poem, and within seven months the band had toured England and America, cut an album, and bought the tape from a dubious EMI: Where were the cars and football that pleased the crowd, the politics that pleased the critics? I saw Sector's summer debut at the Bottom Line-crisp and tense, with post-punk visuals-thought, "Good idea, but Tom's too well-bred to bring it off," and forgot the whole thing until I heard Sector 27 (on I.R.S.) and realized I remembered close to every song. That was the other thing about Robinson: he could write like that.
The well-bred problem came out mostly at Robinson's live shows where (in America, anyhow) his straight-arrow sincerity and compulsion to please seemed so inconsistent with the genuine rage of his material that I first squirmed and finally lost interest, just as I often have in the protest of folksingers - because tone alters credibility and phony protest is part of the problem, not part of the solution. It was because of the tone that at first I heard Sector 27 as more political than its predecessors. The music (mostly co-written with Burt and/or Stevie), with its spaces, guitar stings, and purposeful designs, broke down Robinson's gung-ho, hail-fellow-well-met pose and emphasized the dryness, angularity, and bite that had always been present in his voice, language, and melodies. The lyrics are more allusively conceived, typically built on alternating fragment blocks open to multiple interpretations: "I never expected a pie in the sky/but anything's better than a kick in the eye," b/w "Am I ready? I'm not ready!" (for sex/death/war). They have obscure, sometimes contradictory subjects, and regularly refer, however obliquely, to gay sex.
"From a gay point of view, I feel much happier with Sector 27," Robinson told me last weekend, in between headlining at Irving Plaza and opening for the Police at the Garden. "In TRB it was like something that was just tacked on." And I find the band as well as the material more suitable to a gay artistic statement. (I mean artistic:- Who the other musicians sleep with is their own business.) At the very least, it's punker, and punk is so boy-conscious. The clean, sharp attractiveness of the men and music of Sector 27 is much more in the style of gay male culture than the scruffy rough-and-tumble of TRB.
And I do mean the music, too, where the specializing of the very young men who are half the band is fostered, honored, and needed, with the special gender sympathy gay men share more commonly with women than with straight men.
Burt's tom-tom basslines shade harmonics and build a brooding suspense,
but it's Stevie B's post-Giorgio-Moroder skitters, squawks, swoops, and
screes that save Robinson from his own foursquareness. And it's my guess
that Derek Quinton --that great prize, a laughing drummer - could improve
some tempos that are just begging to be pushed headlong.