Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Even the cover is a winner, with a washed-out look that screams new wave via horn-rimmed glasses, even more so than contemporaneous pictures of either Elvis Costello or the Embarrassment. But if it was all look and no brain, Crazy Rhythms would long ago have been dismissed as an early-'80s relic. That's exactly what this album is not, right from the soft, haunting hints of percussion that preface the suddenly energetic jump of the appropriately titled "The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness." From there the band delivers seven more originals plus a striking cover of the Beatles' "Everybody's Got Something to Hide" that rips along even more quickly than the original. The guitar team of Mercer and Million smokes throughout, whether it's soft, rhythmic chiming with a mysterious, distanced air or blasting, angular solos. But Fier is the band's secret weapon, able to play straight-up beats but aiming at a rumbling, strange punch that updates Velvet Underground/Krautrock trance into giddier realms. Mercer's obvious Lou Reed vocal inflections make the VU roots even clearer, but even at this stage of the game there's something fresh about the work the quartet does, even 20 years on -- a good blend of past and present, rave-up and reflection. When the group's later label, A&M, finally got around to reissuing the album for the first time stateside, a curious bonus was included: a version of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black," recorded by the later lineup of the band in 1990. Mercer's voice is noticeably different from his decade-old self, but it's an enthusiastic rendition not too far out of place.