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  HOT PRESS - December 1990
"We Never Had It So Good"

Attic Records.
Siobhan Long

HIS EDGE is too ragged to fit any musical taxonomy. His rhythms too lofting to accede to the rules of pop. rock or jazz. His subjects too raw for the (majority of) the CD Microwave generation. He is unclassifiable All of which says (in a roundabout way) that Tom Robinson and Jakko M. Jakszyk have produced one of the best albums I've encountered in a long time and anything less than worldwide acclaim will be considered lip service.

He's come a long way from his days of co-writing with the likes of Elton John ("Never Gonna Fall In Love Again") and Peter Gabriel ("Atmospherics/Listen To The Radio").

They were but entrees to this scrumptious collection. If "War Baby" (1983) was his first real show of strength then this album is his tour de force - a veritable assault on the creeping complacency of the past decade. OK so "Driving Through The Desert" or "What Have I Ever Done To You?" are unlikely to be snapped up by those perceptive programmers on satellite TV or radio stations fixated on classic hits. I doubt that these boys will be too put out by that particular sleight of hand. Themes such as sexual repression, bisexuality and our reactions thereto have not yet been deemed. palatable (or marketable?) for the simple minds who faithfully tune in.

The agonies and conflicts of belonging to what is seen as a sexual minority (by the conservative majority) is a major focus of this album. Reflections are recorded here with no rose tinted glasses. Raw nerves are mercilessly exposed and the absolute insanity of the anti-gay posturing is baldly stated. "Why this hysteria? You know you've never even met me." "Blood Brother" tackles the same thorny issue where notions of sexual ambiguity and sexual denial are tenderly but well illustrated. With the added attraction of Dave Stewart's wonderful string arrangements making sure that it insinuates itself into your subconscious effortlessly "Blood Brothers" is a jewel in a sea of spectacular riches. Doubtless many young men of 20 would empathise with its Woody Allen cutout who goes "shopping with (his) mother like a whippet on a lead". David Byrne-like vignettes such as this permeate the album so much that a sense of uted psychosis becomes the most salient and lasting feature of the work.

The single Blood Brother pursues a favourite theme of an estranged young man, and is supported by a lush Dave Stewart string score. The titles give the rest away - The Baby Rages On, Hard Cases, My Own Sweet Way - and there's a prodigious selection of talent helping out as well including Gavin Harrison, Danny Thompson and Pandit Dinesh from Dizrhythmia, and backing vocals from Sam Brown and Dan Hartman.

"My Own Sweet Way" hints that if Robinson had his, there would be anarchy again in the U.K. The venom (both lyrically and rhythmically) recalls The Clash at their. best. "Hard Cases - Peter's Theme" exposes a lot of open wounds but not a hint of a bleeding heart "You try to keep me in your debt/you rob me of my self respect/You crush me 'til there's nothing left/I've got to live my own life". Tyranny(saurus) Wrecks.

Anything else to recommend it? Well, you've got the rakish, petrified vocals of Sam Brown and Dan Hartman (a treat); the fluid arrangements on "What Have I Ever Done To You?" mindful of It's Immaterials's debut single (a bonus) and the glorious halting rhythm section of Gavin Harrison and Pandet Dinesh (a miracle). Robinson/Jakszyk have a partnership made in heaven. "We Never Had It So Good"? Dead right. Listen and marvel.


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